EC proposal on packaging and packaging waste could build a world class circularity model

A proposal for a revised Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, tabled today by the European Commission, builds on the performance of the EU industry’s recycling model for paper and board packaging. The paper industry now calls for a science-based evaluation of recyclable and reusable options.

Recycling is today the first source of fibres for the pulp and paper sector and ‘circularity’ is part of a business model that places Europe as the global recycling champion. In the EU, paper and board packaging is recycled more than all other materials combined. Paper and board also already far exceeds legal recycling targets set for 2025, which are the most stringent amongst all materials. Nevertheless, paper producers and recyclers have pledged to reach a 90% recycling rate by 2030, which is higher than the current legal requirement of 85%. To achieve this, one prerequisite would be to improve the separate collection of paper and board throughout Europe.

The paper and board industry recognises that recyclable and reusable options are complementary, and that the EU could also achieve higher circularity by supplementing its successful recycling model with reuse systems. But the performance of reuse systems will now have to match that of the paper and board industry’s recycling model. Notably, targets set in the new proposal should concentrate on markets where circularity performance needs to be improved, and decisions to go for either recyclable or reusable packaging should be based on independent science-based proof of their respective environmental benefits.

“It is important to understand that we are not against reuse. Independent environmental impact evaluation, as established in the Waste Framework Directive, should be how we decide to go for recycling or reuse. Neither recyclers or ‘re-users’ would want to bear responsibility for a failing environmental model”, says Jori Ringman, Director General – Cepi (Confederation of the European Paper Industries).