“Packaging will play a fundamental role in EU waste reduction policies”


CATEGORY: Sustainability and environment

Interview with Gwendoline Riou, Public Affairs and Communications Manager EUROPEN EU

Sustainability is one of the drivers of transformation in the packaging industry and will be one of the pillars that holds up the Hispack Challenges conference programme. The EUROPEN representative, Gwendoline Riou, will present at the show the core strategic ideas set out by the organisation, which represents the sector's entire value chain in Europe and which has indicated Circular Economy as the model to follow in order to guarantee the configuration of a sustainable industry.


What are the core ideas of the EU policy with regards to the packaging industry?

The EU is poised to approve a legislative package centred on the application of the Circular Economy (EC). The so-called Circular Economy Package (CEP) intends to contribute to closing the life cycle of products by means of increased recycling and encouraging reuse, which will lead to both environmental and economic benefits. To do so, all kinds of policies that affect the packaging supply chain have been promoted.

The CEP sets out for the member states a gradual increase in the recycling ratios for all materials used for packaging. This increase will be backed up by new harmonised calculation regulations, which will enable countries to more precisely report their recycling rates. In this sense, the packaging industry has incentives to focus on the design for recycling. The European Commission is considering revising the regulation regarding packaging, which until now has applied to the composition and reusable and recoverable nature of the packaging.

The new minimum requirements are also expected to help the states to reach the legal recycling goals. The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation will increase transparency, the cost-efficiency relationship and compliance with requirements regarding sustainability at a national level.

The EU's political agenda also supports a reduction in marine debris, made up of, among other things, single-use plastic containers. The aim is to feasibly create 100% recyclable or reusable plastic containers by the year 2025 and guarantee that 10 million tonnes of plastic returns to the production cycle by the same date.

Innovation in packaging will also play an essential role in food waste reduction policies established by the EU, which are also a priority for the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).


How does innovation influence improving sustainability?

Efficient use of materials leads to innovative packaging design, as it requires the creation of a strategy to reduce the resources used for packaging and to apply lighter weight and more efficient materials, with sustainable environmental performance until the end of their lifespan. The industry is seeking solutions in order to optimise the amount of material used without compromising the functionality of its products, while at the same time developing new designs, materials and waste management processes to ensure that packaging can be reused.

Significant improvements in food waste prevention have been achieved in recent years thanks to the current packaging and distribution systems. The use of packaging technologies such as hermetic sealing, modified or controlled atmospheres, or smart labels help to reduce food waste, while smart packaging also enables consumers to buy the quantity that they are actually going to consume.

Innovation plays a key role in the sustainability strategy. For this reason it is crucial to guarantee a stable regulatory playing field in the EU framework that provides security for companies to invest and innovate long-term and, therefore, comply with the environmental and economic packaging aims in the circular economy framework.



What solutions does the circular economy offer the industry?

The circular economy will be key to promoting economic growth and employment in Europe. The Circular Economy Package comprises a series of financial and economic incentives to help companies comply with the regulation and to promote the transition.

For example, a financial support platform for the circular economy was launched in 2017 to support companies that were committing to this model and to promote sustainable innovations. The platform strengthens the link between the current instruments, such as the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), or the InnoFin initiative, and develops new financial instruments for circular economy projects.

The circular economy represents a challenge, but it also brings forth all kinds of business opportunities, which will differ according to each company's position in the industry value chain, the size of its market and its product portfolio. Collaboration between the actors of the packaging supply chain is key to achieving success when taking advantage of new business models within the circular economy model. The most obvious proof can be found with Europen, the organisation that represents the packaging industry in Europe, where we work to increase our understanding of the challenges and opportunities coming about to reduce the environmental impact of products and to work together on the creation of a circular economy model.


Source: Hispack 2018

Víctor Solvas, Hispack contributor


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