The Stakes of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) for the EPS Industry
Source of the article: eumeps.org
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.