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The importance of implementing evidence-based and practical rules to reduce packaging waste and achieve the EU’s climate ambitions was examined closely in a panel discussion organised by EPPA in partnership with Euractiv yesterday.

The upcoming revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) should be an important step towards reaching the European Union’s 2050 climate objectives, in particular its aim of considerably reducing packaging waste and creating a fully circular economy. The new rules will have wide-ranging effects on the environment, consumers and business and so must be carefully deliberated.

During the panel, the Commission’s expert Dr Wolfgang Trunk confirmed that the proposal won’t be published as initially envisaged at the end of July, as his Department (DG ENVI) wants to analyse more science in order to strengthen the text as much as possible. He emphasised that DG ENVI strive for a balanced regulation that combines a variety of optimised measures efficiently.

As one example of the type of science that the Commission is reviewing, Emiliano Micalizio, of renowned engineering consultancy Ramboll, presented their latest Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study, which highlighted that paper-based single-use products provide significant key environmental advantages compared to reusable tableware for in-store dining in Quick Service Restaurants (QSR). This started a heated debate amongst the panellists.

Most of them stressed the need to implement evidence-based and balanced rules which take into account the complexities of the sector. Deliveroo’s Ronan Breen argued that reuse schemes are infinitely more complex to implement in delivery contexts than in restaurants.

Elsa Agante, representing Euroconsumers, noted that imposing reusable targets for takeaway restoration would lead to hygiene, legal and uniformity issues. She emphasised that consumers need and want to know what the most sustainable products are, what have the best or worst environmental outcome. She continued by highlighting that there are new products are trying to substitute single-use packaging, but they are not necessarily environmentally friendly as they are not recyclable.

David Schisler, President of CEE Schisler and board member of EPPA, emphasised the sustainability profile of paper packaging. The paper packaging industry has made considerable progress in the last years to reduce its carbon footprint, increase the recycling of its products and reduce waste. Today, the whole value chain of paper packaging is European, from the wood collection to the recycling process. In addition, unlike other packaging materials such as plastic, all paper packaging can be recycled in bulk at the same time, increasing the quality of the recycled fibre which is then transformed into new products.

The debate ended with everyone agreeing on the importance of creating user-friendly rules, which are accessible, and which will genuinely influence consumer behaviour towards more sustainable packaging and a reduction in packaging waste.