The transition towards circularity is well underway in Europe. It is shaping the way we design, produce and consume products, and also the way we manage disposal to ensure their sustainability.
I am proud of the ambitious actions taken by the European soft drinks sector, represented by UNESDA, to drive the transition to circular packaging. They include the necessary complementarity of recycling and reusable solutions through increased recyclability, support for collection systems, a growing use of recycled content in our packaging, along with an increased offer of reusable beverage systems - from return on-the-go to refill-at-home solutions.
Underpinning our strong commitment to circularity, the effectiveness of our actions depends hugely on a supportive EU legislative framework. Recently, we have seen several key regulatory developments for our sector (and all sectors using packaging), chief amongst them being the current revision of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). This proposal aims at ensuring that “all packaging on the EU market is reusable or recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030”.
We are at a truly critical moment now as the PPWR proposal is being discussed by the European Parliament and Member States.
We call on EU co-legislators to use this opportunity to create supportive enablers that help us deliver fully circular beverage packaging in three areas in particular:
- Closed-loop recycling should be facilitated to put an end to the downcycling of PET bottles – a position also shared by the NGO community. The EU can enable this through guaranteeing priority access to the feedstock for recycling for use in similar applications in a closed-loop system (food-grade to food-grade for example). This principle should also be enshrined in the minimum requirements for Deposit Return Systems (DRS) listed in Annex X to the proposal. This will help us meet our mandatory and voluntary EU recycled content targets and will avoid the downcycling of PET bottles in non-food applications.
- The implementation of well-designed Deposit Return Systems (DRS) in Europe is also an important enabler of beverage packaging circularity. Our sector has been working with NGOs on DRS minimum requirements to ensure DRS are set up in the most efficient and effective way. We are pleased to see some of those elements reflected in Annex X to the proposal. However, a couple of key requirements should still be included. Firstly, any DRS should be led by the industry financing and participating in the system, in a not-for-profit structure. Secondly, the revenues coming from the sales of the collected materials and unredeemed deposits should also stay in the system to cover both set-up and operational costs. This is key to ensuring that DRS revenues are expressly used to drive the functioning of the DRS itself.
- Manufacturers need flexibility to invest in the packaging mix that makes the most sense from an environmental, economic, and consumer perspective. Any reuse and refill target should be designed in a way that promotes innovation in packaging reduction solutions and that provides legal certainty to businesses thanks to a tailored and timely calculation methodology. There are a number of valid, yet different, types of reusable and refill solutions on the market and they all have one point in common: they contribute to reducing the amount of beverage packaging and beverage packaging waste.
We will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with EU decision-makers to ensure the PPWR enables us to achieve fully circular beverage packaging in practice. We will continue to play our part. We ask members of the European Parliament to help us do so.