The Stakes of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) for the EPS Industry

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There is no doubt that pack­ag­ing is nec­es­sary to trans­port and pro­tect goods, and is, there­fore, a key envi­ron­men­tal con­cern. In April 2023, EUMEPS co-signed along­side 120 indus­try asso­ci­a­tions a state­ment urg­ing co-leg­is­la­tors to safe­guard the inter­nal mar­ket legal basis of the Pack­ag­ing and Pack­ag­ing Waste Reg­u­la­tion (PPWR), a trans­for­ma­tion of the Pack­ag­ing and Pack­ag­ing Waste Direc­tive (PPWD) which lay down mea­sures to pre­vent pack­ag­ing waste, to increase recy­cling and reuse of mate­ri­als and ulti­mate­ly to achieve a cir­cu­lar econ­o­my. What are the ambi­tions of this Reg­u­la­tion ful­ly sup­port­ed by EUMEPS? And what are the stakes for the Expand­ed Poly­styrene (EPS) industry? 


Pack­ag­ing waste in Europe 

As indi­vid­u­als, we are sur­round­ed by pack­ag­ing whether it is to pro­tect our elec­tron­ics, car­ry our food or even pro­tect our lives. The Pack­ag­ing and Pack­ag­ing Waste Direc­tive gives the cur­rent def­i­n­i­tion of “pack­ag­ing”: “prod­ucts made of any mate­ri­als of any nature to be used for the con­tain­ment, pro­tec­tion, han­dling, deliv­ery and pre­sen­ta­tion of goods, from raw mate­ri­als to processed goods, from the pro­duc­er to the user or the con­sumer” (arti­cle 3).

The use and diver­si­ty of pack­ag­ing mate­ri­als are almost lim­it­less, and so is the demand for them. In the mean­time, the recy­cling rate of pack­ag­ing slight­ly increased (from 63 to 64%) and the recov­ery rate (which includes recy­cling, ener­gy recov­ery and oth­er forms of recov­ery) rose from 76 % in 2009 to 80 % in 2020. The Con­ver­sio study pub­lished by EUMEPS in 2022 high­lights the great recy­cling rates of EPS, a mate­r­i­al which is 100% recy­clable: of col­lect­ed EPS pack­ag­ing, 38% is recy­cled and anoth­er 38% is used for ener­gy recov­ery. More recent­ly, the Ellen MacArthur Foun­da­tion has reclas­si­fied insu­lat­ed and pro­tec­tive pack­ag­ing as recy­cled at scale and in prac­tice on a glob­al lev­el. Some Euro­pean coun­tries such as Nor­way, Den­mark, Aus­tria, Bel­gium or Ire­land even have recy­cling rates exceed­ing 50% (87% for Nor­way), which is proof to good prac­tice with­in the Euro­pean Industry.

The sit­u­a­tion is get­ting bet­ter but there is room for improve­ment, and this is pre­cise­ly the role of the PPWR..

What is the Pack­ag­ing and Pack­ag­ing Waste Reg­u­la­tion? And what does it do?

As indi­cat­ed above, the PPWD gives a clear def­i­n­i­tion as to what “pack­ag­ing” is, but not only. Its true pur­pose is to “lay down mea­sures to pre­vent the pro­duc­tion of pack­ag­ing waste and to pro­mote the reuse of pack­ag­ing and recy­cling and oth­er forms of recov­er­ing pack­ag­ing waste. It also sets out the require­ments that all pack­ag­ing placed on the EU mar­ket must meet”. In Novem­ber 2022, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pro­posed to trans­form Direc­tive 94/62/EC on Pack­ag­ing and Pack­ag­ing Waste (which means the PPWD) into a Reg­u­la­tion as an ambi­tion for a cir­cu­lar economy.

In a posi­tion paper pub­lished in Jan­u­ary 2023, EUMEPS claimed its sup­port for the new­ly pro­posed Reg­u­la­tion (that is the PPWR) which aims to pre­vent and reduce the adverse impacts of pack­ag­ing on the envi­ron­ment and on health. In the recent joint state­ment signed by EUMEPS and oth­er asso­ci­a­tions, the Reg­u­la­tion is seen as a major step for­ward in this pledge but also rais­es con­cerns about its posi­tion and the pos­si­ble ero­sion which would neg­a­tive­ly impact the pack­ag­ing indus­try as a whole.

For a har­mon­i­sa­tion of the Euro­pean legal mar­ket to achieve a cir­cu­lar economy

In brief, EUMEPS and the 120 co-sig­na­to­ries are urg­ing co-leg­is­la­tors (in charge of the leg­isla­tive pro­pos­al of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion) to pre­serve the entire­ty of the inter­nal mar­ket legal basis, seen as best suit­ed to serve the envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­ic objec­tives of the regulation.

The pack­ag­ing val­ue chain, through invest­ments at scale and the free move­ment of pack­aged mate­ri­als and goods in a strong Euro­pean Union sin­gle mar­ket, plays a cen­tral role in a resource-effi­cient and cir­cu­lar econ­o­my. Enabling pack­ag­ing waste to be duly col­lect­ed is fun­da­men­tal to enabling cir­cu­lar­i­ty and achiev­ing a cli­mate-neu­tral econ­o­my in Europe, accord­ing to the signatories.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in recent years, the pack­ag­ing val­ue chain has also wit­nessed an increase in uni­lat­er­al and diver­gent nation­al pack­ag­ing require­ments (for instance pack­ag­ing bans, reuse and recy­cled con­tent tar­gets, and labelling require­ments) which have led to inter­nal mar­ket bar­ri­ers, envi­ron­men­tal trade-offs, loss­es in economies of scale, and diver­sion of invest­ments and R&D.

There­fore, the sig­na­to­ries state that sev­er­al pro­vi­sions includ­ed in the PPWR already allow mem­ber states to main­tain or intro­duce addi­tion­al nation­al sus­tain­abil­i­ty and infor­ma­tion require­ments thus weak­en­ing har­mon­i­sa­tion at the detri­ment of con­sumers, envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, and com­pet­i­tive­ness of the Euro­pean Industry.

Any poten­tial ero­sion or split of the Regulation’s inter­nal mar­ket legal basis will fur­ther exac­er­bate the cur­rent pres­sures, cre­ate legal uncer­tain­ty and under­mine the free move­ment of pack­aged goods.

Read the full joint state­ment here.

Read the posi­tion paper of EUMEPS on the PPWR here.




AuthorIngrid Morin