The European plastics packaging Industry: a plea for unbiased policies and a circular future

The European plastics packaging industry stands at a juncture. Amidst worldwide sustainability and circularity drives, there’s an urgent requirement for EU regulations to provide an equitable, balanced, and scientifically grounded framework. The industry is voicing a collective sentiment, lobbying for regulations that encourage not just environmental responsibility but also industry innovation, growth, and competitiveness. EUMEPS co-signed a position paper for a science-based and material-neutral policy framework. Below are the main points.


The Escalating Bias Against Plastics:

As we gravitate towards a more environmentally-aware world, the European Parliament and Council have been engaging in policy dialogues surrounding the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). However, there’s rising apprehension about the apparent prejudice against plastics. For instance, draft amendments in Article 38 of the PPWR centre solely on waste reduction targets for plastics. There are also suggestions to transition towards lighter materials, further disadvantaging plastics. Such a non-neutral approach, it’s feared, would disadvantage plastics in spite of its sustainability and recyclability potential.

Unintended Repercussions and the Genuine Climate Impact:

There’s an escalating trend to restrict or ban particular plastic packaging formats. Whilst these bans might seem appealing and straightforward solutions, they potentially augment the overall climate impact of packaging. The plastics packaging industry has been investing billions to transition to net-zero and circular models. Discriminating against specific packaging formats, especially those that are already recyclable, would discourage the sustained development of green technologies. Moreover, supplanting plastics with other materials doesn’t assuredly lead to net-zero emissions. In fact, numerous studies have underscored the lower GHG contribution of plastics in comparison to alternatives in most applications.

The Path Forward: Recommendations for Policymakers:

The undersigned associations urge EU policymakers to adopt a material-neutral stance. The emphasis should be on banning packaging formats that aren’t recyclable, rather than targeting recyclable plastics. A forward-thinking, balanced policy should aim to:

  • Implement harmonised design-for-recycling criteria.
  • Promote the use of recycled content in all plastic packaging.
  • Enhance collection, sorting, and recycling mechanisms.
  • Encourage reuse across various applications.

The plastics industry isn’t avoiding its environmental duties. It’s poised to innovate, invest, and evolve. What it requires is a regulatory environment that’s rooted in science, is impartial and allows for growth whilst ensuring environmental protection. Only with such collaborative efforts can the EU genuinely reach its 2050 circularity and climate targets.

Read the position paper from the plastics value chain here.