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Last week, Fibre Packaging Europe – our umbrella alliance – organised a discussion with key stakeholders about the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) and the crucial role the paper packaging industry has to play in supporting the European Commission to reach its goal of a climate-neutrality by 2050.

Renewable Packaging enables Fossil Free Europe

As the Commission is working on the long awaited revision of the PPWD and looking at setting new recycling and reusability targets, Paper Packaging Day offered the perfect opportunity for industry players, environmental experts and policymakers to stress the importance of adopting rational and science-based rules. Recyclability, renewability and sustainability should be front and centre in the review of the rules.

Skye Oudemans, Sustainability Manager Europe for Sonoco, stressed that the fibre-based packaging industry consistently invests in innovation, and the results have been seen over the last decades: from new packaging formats to new systems and structures, along with massive reductions in material consumption, making for more sustainable, renewable and efficient packaging.

Her points were echoed by Mats Nordlander, President, Containerboard of SCA who talked about the reduction by half of the amount of fibre needed for a product and the replacement of some raw materials with more sustainable ones.

In addition to these improvements and innovations, the European paper packaging industry established its entire supply chain in Europe. As stressed by Mike Turner, Chair of Fibre Packaging Europe, the paper packaging industry is a European business with fibres grown, processed and recycled in Europe, contributing to the EU strategic autonomy.

Revising PPWD should not disrupt a well-functioning and efficient industry, Nordlander noted.

The industry prides itself on continuing to produce renewable, recyclable and recycled and environmentally performant packaging. Mats Nordlander highlighted the very high recycling rates of paper packaging, reaching over 80% and higher in some European countries.

The European Commission DG Grow representative, Gewnoele Cozigou praised the paper industry for reaching their targets way ahead of the deadline and emphasised the importance of adopting coherent policies, taking into account the need for circularity, life cycle and recyclability.

Piotr Barczak, Senior Policy Officer for Circular Economy and Waste at the European Environmental Bureau (EBB) said that there was a “complementarity between reuse and recycling” and that “everything should be recyclable and some things should be reusable”.

The review of the packaging rules will significantly impact the packaging industry and society in the years to come. Yet, revising and updating the rules will not be sufficient if they are not accompanied by behavioural change. This view was shared by all panelists. Consumers will need accessible and intelligible information on recycling, littering and reuse if they are to adapt their behaviour and contribute to the reduction of packaging littering, waste and pollution.