Press Release: Single-Use Plastics: Let’s Talk About the Environment
The EU Commission promotes the following hierarchy in its packaging policies: REDUCE consumption, REUSE and RECYCLE. This supports the ultimate goal of the EU to be climate neutral by 2050.
Over the last decades, PET made progress to reduce weight of packaging, bottles are now up to 50 % lighter than 20 years ago. All over the EU, PET bottles are increasingly collected and recycled, which lead to an EU-wide recycling rate of 61% in 2020. Today, PET packaging can in some cases also play a vital role by avoiding the use of material through reuse systems.
However, it is imperative to consider wherever EU countries implement policies to foster reusable packaging, this should be done in consolidation and with cross-border alignment, without disputing the vision of EU single market.
The PET industry supports the scale-up of reuse systems in case they show clear environmental benefits based on scientific analysis. We acknowledge that in certain cases reuse solutions can complement single-use recyclable packaging. PET packaging has an inherent potential in terms of reuse which is already showcased today by several best practice examples in- and outside the EU. A clear and forward-looking regulatory environment is essential for the road towards more reuse and recycling. Here are our recommendations to help achieve it:
- The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050. PET packaging can play a vital role not only through recycling but also by reducing the weight of packaging and the introduction of reuse systems. Due to its excellent environmental performance, PET should not be overlooked when implementing reuse solutions or setting standards regarding reusable packaging.
- In the long-term a smart mix of different systems and types of packaging is needed, depending on the characteristics of each market, reuse can play a more or less important role. The overall objective should be to use packaging in the most circular way possible while keeping the environmental impact as low and the packaged goods as safe as possible.
- Any shift to reuse needs to be a managed transition considering the changes required to the supply chains aiming for the best performing solutions from an environmental perspective. Extensive impact assessments should precede any decisions on EU or Member State level.
- Even though the PET industry supports the scale-up of reuse systems, undifferentiated reuse quotas should be looked at objectively andwith caution. Legislation should be evidence-based and always favour the least complex, most environmental-friendly, most recyclable packaging solution adapted to the local markets. A great number of elements must be looked at, such as weight of the packaging, sales channel, transport distance and efficiency, water use for cleaning purposes, recycled material content etc. Any analysis needs to be conducted on a case-by-case basis and most probably the ideal solution lies in the combination of single-use and refillable PET bottles.
- Optimized harmonized solutions regarding reuse policies all over Europe should be recommended to safeguard the EU single market. If EU countries implement policies to foster reusable packaging, this should be done in in consolidation and with cross-border alignment and by consideration of lifecycle assessments.
- Deposit Refund Systems (DRS)for single-use beverage containers create good pre-conditions for the growth of refillables and single-use recyclable containers. Such systems need to be tailored to national and/or local specificities, but they must be designed according to a set of universal principles and elements to ensure their effectiveness and cost-efficiency.
- Finally, consumer safety and hygiene remain the highest priority. Reuse systems need to take this factor into account, especially when it comes to refill on the go solutions. According to GDB, who has decades of experience with refillable bottles, the industrial processes for cleaning and sterilising refillable PET bottles (Return at drop-off point) are established worldwide and are considered safe.
“The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive diverts from its core purpose; and the desired harmonisation of all EU Member States is slowly but inevitably disappearing. It started with the Plastics Carrier Bags Directive in 2015 and it continues with another discrimination for only one material: plastics. SMEs in Europe are being penalized and jobs will be lost even though everybody knows the pollution is the highest in other parts of the world where more action is needed to combat littering. It will be difficult for politicians in the next years to show the added value of the EU institutions towards many of these affected companies and consumers. However we live in a political world which will hopefully learn from its mistakes but where education is taking for granted as the internet is taking over from our institutions.”
Against this scenario, EuPC will continue to work with policymakers and NPAs to ensure that environmental sustainability as well as health and safety of products are guaranteed. For the above-mentioned reasons, EuPC still urges the Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the Member States to take the time to understand the true implications of such a proposal, that is far from ensuring the desired environmental benefits.