Opening the two-day conference in front of 100 guests, Eamonn Bates, chairman of the summit and secretary general, Pack2Go Europe, said ‘packaging is under threat, not in name, but in Brussels, according to revised European legislation’.
Revision of waste directive
“We have a new round of revision of the packaging and packaging waste directive, with waste legislation, higher targets for collection, recycling and removal of landfill,” he said.
“There will be no more landfill in the future and the industry will have to pay for litter clean up.”
Bates added, this in turn will lead to a ‘regulating packaging material war’, people arguing over which is better, plastics, metal, glass or paper.
“We have to be careful not to get sucked into this dangerous spiral and focus on what’s good about packaging. Silly debates damage the whole sector and politicians will be talking about this over the next year and half,” he said.
Virginia Janssens MD, Europen, which celebrates its 21st anniversary this year and has 47 corporate members, questioned the notion of a ‘circular economy’ draft proposal by Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the environment.
“We are living with linear economic systems inherited from the 19th century in the 21st century world of emerging economies, millions of new middle class consumers and inter-connected markets,” said Potočnik, in a speech in July, on higher recycling targets to drive transition to a circular economy with new jobs and sustainable growth.
The proposal on the European Commission and its circular economy package came out on July 2, said Janssens: it is a legislative proposal which focuses on packaging and packaging recycling targets and EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility).
Implementation by 2018
Political agreement is expected on these decisions in 2016, with implementation on the directive between 2017-2018.
“The circular economy model is not new but every member state has its own way of policing themselves and different cultures. It is very complex,” she said.
“It’s not fair how each member state records its own recycling rates so that has to be harmonized.
“There needs to be different fees, models, ownership schemes, with other member states and stakeholders, or by public or private waste management companies and municipalities.
“There needs to be a virtual integration of an EPR scheme. These trends need to be regulated somehow, we need a minimum performance criteria and more transparency than now for the fee structure and material flows.
Janssens added there are proposed higher targets for recycling rates, and the European Commission has changed the methodology, from an input to an output model but no one at industry level knows what this new methodology is and how that will affect current rates.
“You can’t just focus on one area and push legislation on that. You have to look at it in a holistic view. You can ask us the industry to lightweight as much as possible but it still has to withstand restraints,” she said.
“With portion sizes playing an important role and demographic changes with more single households packaging has to be seen as a communication and marketing tool.
“We have to repeat this to legislators because there has to be a balance. We cannot over focus on recyclability and forget about the other functionalities of packaging.
“The recycling targets in Europe are in a grey zone that needs to be fixed.
“Europe would love to have stringent designs on eco-packaging design for example, but it is not possible to have design requirements that are non-discriminative and works for every single product package supply chain. It is not possible to legislate that at European level and we will fight against that.”