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Independent research from the Joint Research Center of the European Commission shows that paper food packaging outperforms plastic reusables

A recent study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) investigates the environmental performance of food packaging materials used in the HORECA (hotel, restaurant, and catering) sector. Key findings of this report provide valuable insights for policymakers and industry professionals.

Study Highlights

  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA): When using life cycle datasets reflecting low environmental impacts for cartonboard, the study demonstrated clear advantages for single-use packaging options, particularly in categories like Water Use, Climate Change, and the aggregated Single Score.

Policy Implications

The JRC findings support:

  • Removal of Mandatory Reuse Targets: The study aligns with the European Parliament’s proposal to remove mandatory reuse targets on paper-based food and beverage packaging for takeaway (article 26).
  • Amendments to Article 22 and Annex V: The report backs the current amendments to these sections, as voted by the European Parliament.

Additional Technical Analysis

Independent LCA experts further analyzed the final JRC report, identifying aspects where results could even more strongly favor paper packaging over reusable plastic alternatives. Key points include considerations regarding:

  • Electricity Mix
  • Water Consumption Data
  • Case Study Representativeness
  • Recycling Rates
  • Landfill and Recycling Assumptions
  • Underestimated Plastic Impacts
  • Other Impact Categories (e.g., fossil resource depletion, land use)

The JRC study offers important evidence as policymakers evaluate the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). Its findings highlight the environmental suitability and performance of paper-based solutions within the HORECA sector.