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(Brussels, 17 November 2022) — As the EU prepares to set strict new targets on packaging waste, a mounting body of evidence shows that proposed targets on reusables are unscientific, unsustainable and unnecessary.

The European Paper Packaging Alliance has issued fresh calls for the European Commission to put the full product life cycle at the heart of its vision for a circular economy, and not to use the upcoming Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation proposal to effectively outlaw packaging solutions that are more sustainable.

The latest evidence comes from a new life cycle analysis study, which shows that recyclable, paper-based packaging used in the food delivery and takeaway sector offers significant environmental advantages over reusable systems across 12 ‘impact categories’ including climate change, freshwater consumption and resource depletion.

The results show that switching to reusable alternatives would generate 48% more CO2-equivalent emissions, consume 39% more freshwater and demand 82% more mineral and resource extraction.
Analysis of the results shows that this is because transporting food and beverage containers back to restaurants after use, together with washing and drying them hygienically, consumes far more energy, water and resources.

This LCA study adds to a range of other evidence which shows that reusable container systems are not the panacea which some seem to believe.

Commenting on the findings, Eric Le Lay, President of the European Paper Packaging Alliance said:

This is more proof that reusable packaging is not always the best solution for the environment. It is imperative that proper life cycle analysis be reflected in the text of the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation proposal. 

The leaked draft text of the regulation is disappointing. It sets unrealistic and discriminatory reuse targets for in-store dining and takeaway services. The European Commission should embrace the scientific evidence that single-use, paper-based containers are not only far more practical for food delivery services and their customers, improving hygiene and convenience, but simply perform better on key environmental metrics.”

Antonio D’Amato, Vice President of EPPA, also commented:

“Protecting the planet is too important a priority to be left to ideology. The planet’s health demands a rigorous scientific approach and substantial investment in new technology and innovation, which can only be generated by sustainable growth. 

Europe and indeed the entire world face energy and water scarcity and food shortages, yet the Commission’s current proposals would escalate carbon emissions and resource depletion, accelerate water stress and increase food waste. We should instead be working together on solutions that are truly sustainable for the environment, the economy and employment. We are convinced that the circular economy, in which we have all invested billions of euros over 30 years’ hard work and innovation, is the only way to provide sustainable solutions for the environment, economy and employment.”

The study was commissioned by EPPA. The full study including its methodology description is available for download here.