EUMEPS and Smart Packaging Europe organised the event “EPSolutely! Innovation, recycling and the EPS industry’s progress towards circularity” 

EUMEPS and Smart Pack­ag­ing Europe organ­ised the event “EPSolute­ly! Inno­va­tion, recy­cling and the EPS industry’s progress towards cir­cu­lar­i­ty” at the Press Club Brus­sels on 15th June 2022.

We wel­comed high-lev­el speak­ers from the Euro­pean insti­tu­tions, the EPS and plas­tics indus­try, research insti­tutes, and more than 60 peo­ple attend­ed in per­son and online. Post­poned due to COVID, our event pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty for EUMEPS to for­mal­ly present Smart Pack­ag­ing Europe as an alliance of big and small com­pa­nies that reflects the diver­si­ty of the Euro­pean EPS pack­ag­ing val­ue chain, includ­ing EPS pack­ag­ing users.

EUMEPS Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Jür­gen Lang, start­ed the dis­cus­sions, out­lin­ing the ver­sa­til­i­ty, reli­a­bil­i­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty of EPS in the con­struc­tion and pack­ag­ing sec­tors. He stressed that the EPS indus­try has a key role to play in help­ing the EU to achieve the green tran­si­tion, includ­ing the EU’s ambi­tious cli­mate targets.

Klaus Ries, Chair of the EUMEPS Board, called on the par­tic­i­pants to join forces and help to find the best reg­u­la­tions and norms, which allow for the best use of EPS. “Nowa­days, for­tu­nate­ly, when we talk about prod­ucts, we also talk about their end of life and recy­cla­bil­i­ty, which was unthink­able just a few years ago”, he observed.

Christoph Lind­ner, Man­ag­ing Part­ner of Cov­er­sio, pre­sent­ed the “The EPS industry’s jour­ney towards cir­cu­lar­i­ty – Progress report” that Con­ver­sio had crit­i­cal­ly reviewed and ‘approved’. It presents the most recent recy­cling fig­ures for EPS avail­able in Europe. It shows a steady year­ly increase in EPS recy­cling rates across the Mem­ber States of almost 4% over the last years. The main dri­ver for EPS recy­cling has been pack­ag­ing. Our data shows an Euro­pean aver­age recy­cling rate for EPS post-con­sumer pack­ag­ing of 38% in 2019. We have observed a recy­cling rate of above 76% in coun­tries such as Nor­way, which is also report­ed by the Nor­we­gian PRO. Fur­ther­more, the recy­cling rate for EPS post-con­sumer pack­ag­ing already exceeds 50% in five EU-coun­tries, name­ly in Por­tu­gal, Den­mark, Nether­lands, Aus­tria, Ire­land and Bel­gium. Specif­i­cal­ly for EPS fish box­es, we have found recy­cling rates of above 70% in at least eight Euro­pean coun­tries, includ­ing Por­tu­gal and Nor­way, where the recy­cling rates are at 90%.

We had plea­sure to host Lau­re Bail­largeon, Pol­i­cy Offi­cer, Green and Cir­cu­lar Econ­o­my Unit, DG GROW, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion as keynote speak­er. She empha­sised the impor­tance of coop­er­a­tion con­cern­ing plas­tics. At the moment, the Commission’s work is focused on two main issues. The first of these is strate­gic auton­o­my, linked to the need to be less depen­dent on gas imports. The sec­ond issue is cli­mate change and the green tran­si­tion. The Com­mis­sion has set ambi­tious tar­gets to be achieved by 2025 and 2030. To reach these tar­gets, a steep accel­er­a­tion of cur­rent (real) efforts for pack­ag­ing will be nec­es­sary. A note­wor­thy ini­tia­tive is the Cir­cu­lar Plas­tics Alliance (CPA), an alliance of more than 310 stake­hold­er organ­i­sa­tions (of which EUMEPS is a found­ing mem­ber). The CPA shares the recy­cling ambi­tion of the EU, but a sys­tem­at­ic change along the entire val­ue chain is nec­es­sary. There is a need to invest in new capac­i­ties and tech­nolo­gies. Now the next step will be the inter­ac­tion with the nation­al author­i­ties in charge of waste management.

Impor­tant­ly, the event pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty for EUMEPS to for­mal­ly present Smart Pack­ag­ing Europe. Sven Hep­pes, Spokesper­son for Smart Pack­ag­ing Europe (SPE), gave an overview of SPE’s work to date and future plans. Cur­rent­ly, there is increased gen­er­al polit­i­cal atten­tion on pack­ag­ing, includ­ing from civ­il soci­ety. He high­light­ed the ver­sa­til­i­ty of EPS as a pack­ag­ing mate­r­i­al, giv­ing exam­ples of var­ied uses includ­ing for COVID-19 vac­cine pack­ag­ing. He pre­sent­ed the exam­ple of an EPS pack­ag­ing user join­ing SPE. Attract­ing the end-users of EPS pack­ag­ing and devel­op­ing new solu­tions togeth­er will con­tin­ue to be one of the main goals of Smart Pack­ag­ing Europe.

Dr. Karl Ott, Head of Intral­o­gis­tics and Mate­ri­als Man­age­ment at the Fraun­hofer Insti­tut in Aus­tria, intro­duced EPSolute­ly, an Aus­tri­an research project start­ed in Jan­u­ary 2022. A Con­sor­tium brings togeth­er rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the entire val­ue chain with the objec­tive of devel­op­ing new tech­nol­o­gy solu­tions, defin­ing new cas­es, pre­ferred sce­nar­ios and imple­ment­ing pilots. The aim of this project is to com­plete­ly close the cycle through recy­cling to PS regran­u­late. In the com­ing months, it will be cru­cial to devel­op a suit­able tech­nol­o­gy for each process and to build up effi­cient and sus­tain­able logis­tics. Anoth­er major aspect not to be under­es­ti­mat­ed is the social one, relat­ed to the recy­cla­bil­i­ty of EPS. A change of mind­set is nec­es­sary to raise aware­ness for sep­a­rate EPS collection.

MEP Cyrus Enger­er (Social­ists & Democ­rats, Mal­ta) gave an insight into the major leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives cur­rent­ly under con­sid­er­a­tion in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. One of these is the pro­pos­al for a new EU reg­u­la­tion on waste ship­ments. “It is vital to talk not about waste, but rather about resources”, he said, adding that it is essen­tial to keep these resources on our con­ti­nent. Ways and means have to be found so that pack­ag­ing can be col­lect­ed and reused or recy­cled, includ­ing pack­ag­ing that is smarter and more recyclable.

The pan­el dis­cus­sion addressed anoth­er impor­tant upcom­ing leg­isla­tive file, the new Pack­ag­ing Waste Reg­u­la­tion. The Com­mis­sion has been review­ing the require­ments on pack­ag­ing and pack­ag­ing waste in the EU. This will include assess­ing how to improve pack­ag­ing design to pro­mote reuse and recy­cling, increase recy­cled con­tent in pack­ag­ing, tack­le exces­sive pack­ag­ing, and reduce pack­ag­ing waste. Jür­gen Lang and oth­er par­tic­i­pants linked this back to the issue of waste ship­ments, which need to be facil­i­tat­ed for the pur­pose of recy­cling with­in the EU.

If you would like to watch the event, you can see a full record­ing here, also you see a sum­ma­ry video of our event on Social Media chan­nels Twit­ter and LinkedIn.


AuthorLea Salihovic