An “in progress” collection of the declarations expressed by the supply chain associations following the vote of the European Parliament in plenary session on 22 November.
After the approval of the amendments to the Packaging Regulation – PPWR – of 22 November 2023 by the European Parliament , the dissemination of comments and points of view from interest groups, stakeholder associations and subjects in various capacities involved in the results of the vote continues has overall downsized the most orthodox and contested aspects of the Commission’s proposal, in particular by finding a balance between recycling and reuse.
In detail, the following have passed: the exemption from the prohibitions established by the text on the basis of life-cycle assessment and separate collection: the exemption for the “Horeca” prohibitions on the basis of separate collection, remembering that Italy produces most of the glasses and recyclable materials; the definition of composite packaging, high quality recycling and recyclability, thus avoiding production stops for a whole series of product types.
Let’s start with the institutional positions of Europen , the association representing the international packaging supply chain on the continent, recently interviewed by ItaliaImballaggio with an intervention by Francesca Siciliano Stevens of the General Secretariat. The association recognizes Parliament’s desire to mitigate the distorting effects of the Single Market represented by some highly ideological measures not based on scientific and objective measurement paths of the impact of packaging in the desired path towards a net-zero technological transition.
A position strengthened by Stevens herself who declares:
«Parliament has eliminated some arbitrary constraints in terms of banning and reuse, which does not represent a scientific solution to the problem of reducing waste and emissions. Numerous constraints remain that affect the value chain and put the Single Market at risk due to fragmentation that must be resolved with further efforts.”
Francesca Siciliano Stevens’ reflections are online on Europen’s Linkedin profile
Returning to Italy, among the most active countries in affirming the need to codify a scientific method of measuring the impact of packaging compared to sensationalist approaches to the green deal, the position of UCIMA , the Union of Manufacturers of Machinery for the Packaging and Packaging, which with the president, Riccardo Cavanna, declares:
«Wednesday’s vote in the European Parliament on the new packaging regulation goes in the desired direction. Common sense prevailed. However, we are waiting for the next steps, because the journey is not over yet” and continues “Now is the time to wait. Other decisive institutional steps will follow, starting with the trilogue and the Council which meets on 18 December. The parliamentary battle is not over yet. We certainly have some positive points; now we hope that common sense, reasonableness and a scientific data-based approach remain as prevalent as they have in recent days. Ucima has always been at the forefront in defending the Italian way, a model that has made us leaders in our ability to recycle waste. We have worked strenuously over the last year, together with Confindustria and the other trade associations in the supply chain. We presented the sector’s requests in Rome to several parliamentarians from the various commissions affected by the effects of the regulation. Together with Europen we have organized some targeted meetings with Brussels with MEPs from all sides. In this way – concludes the President of UCIMA – we have demonstrated as a country that we know how to work as a team, and these are the results. We will continue to work together to defend a system that brings benefits from both an environmental and economic point of view.”
Then it is the turn of Giflex , the Flexible Packaging Group, among the first to express a point of view through the joint statement with FPE, Flexible Packaging Europe by the president Alberto Palaveri :
«Giflex, together with Flexible Packaging Europe (FPE), has worked intensely in recent months to protect our sector and the results are visible. We are happy with the improvements that have been made to the text approved by the European Parliament, such as the exemption from reuse for flexible transport packaging in contact with food. However, there remain critical issues regarding the degrees of recyclability and the safeguard clauses relating to recycled content, which we will work on in the next legislative steps, in the Council and subsequently in the Trilogue. The Giflex team’s effort for the protection and sustainability of the sector continues.”
An in-depth analysis with the complete reflection is online on the FPE website .
Then it is the turn of the Italian Box Manufacturers Association (CIS), which delegates to president Andrea Mecarozzi the comment on the position of the main producers of corrugated cardboard packaging at a national level.
«The changes approved yesterday in Strasbourg, with broad consensus, represent a significant step towards finding a balance between recycling and reuse, a crucial issue for the cardboard packaging sector. It is reassuring to note that the ban on single-use containers for food products has been averted, taking into consideration the sustainability of such packaging and its food safety, protected by strict regulations. We express great appreciation for the work done by the Italian institutions on this topic and for their ability to listen to all the players in the paper and cardboard supply chain, who, like us, have taken action in recent months to make an active contribution to a draft Regulation which would have had a strong impact on a sector that has always operated at high levels of sustainability and circularity. We will continue to actively collaborate to promote sustainable practices in the packaging sector, thus contributing to the well-being of the environment and our community.”
From Italy, we return to Europe again with the point of view of European Bioplastics (EUBP) , which focuses its activity on the valorisation of bioplastics as a tool to achieve increasingly greater recycling objectives and brings together industrial stakeholders involved in the entire bioplastic production chain . The association welcomes the more moderate approach taken by Parliament, while expressing disappointment at the role attributed to bioplastics in the process of reducing emissions. This is what Roberto Ferrigno, head of European affairs at EUBP, underlines:
«Today’s vote can be seen as a first step towards enabling the EU to reach, by 2030, the objective of generating at least 20% of the carbon used in chemicals and plastics from non-fossil sources. An objective that is not yet fully achievable, especially now that Parliament has decided not to support the role of biobased plastics in achieving the recycled content objectives. In fact, we believe that biobased plastics can and will contribute to the transition towards a circular economy, storing and reusing carbon dioxide.”
This was echoed by Director General Hasso von Pogrell who said: «EUBP calls on the EU co-legislators to design and adopt a regulation on packaging and packaging waste that enables the further development of zero-emission biobased polymer production technologies , as enabling factors for the transformation of the European Green Deal”.From the bioplastics industry to the corrugated cardboard industry, with the considerations of FEFCO – European Corrugated Packaging Association – which supports the Commission’s objectives on reducing the environmental impact of packaging and waste by strengthening the functioning of the internal market contained in the PPWR review and welcomes the vote that took place in Parliament. According to FEFCO, in fact, the vote defined the path towards increasingly sustainable packaging by maintaining the existing waste management system and strengthening the competitiveness of European businesses. The invitation now goes to the Council, to maintain the same orientation, to ensure that the final version of the PPWR maintains a complementary approach between recycling and reuse capable of guaranteeing competitiveness by harmonizing the internal market. Corrugated cardboard is one of the most recycled packaging in Europe, with a recycling rate of over 90% and an average recycled content of 89% coming from a renewable source. Concepts reinforced by Eleni Despotou, Director General of FEFCO, who stated:
“The corrugated industry is committed to supporting the goals of the PPWR and promoting circular packaging options that benefit the environment and society.”Then it’s the turn of a food sector that calls primary packaging into question. This is the fruit and vegetable sector which, with the European association AREFLH – Assemblée des regions europeannes fruitieres, legumieres et horticoles , welcomes the proposed regulation amended of the initially hypothesized restrictions. Among the many, the one towards packages weighing less than a kg stood out, which would have had a strong impact on the export capacity of the system and on the shelf life of fruit, vegetables and legumes.
The association claims to have acted at various levels to raise awareness among the Commissioners of the needs of the European fruit and vegetable system, as highlighted by the president, Simona Caselli and the vice-president Jean-Louis Moulon who state:
«The vote is a great victory that fills us with satisfaction, since it provides the single market with a clear regulation that will allow the European fruit and vegetable system to obtain important results in terms of reducing packaging and waste, while maintaining high standards of food safety and thus reducing waste. Our exporters can now work with clear rules, maintaining a strategic objective for our sector, represented both by the reduction of packaging and the search for new materials capable of improving the environmental impact, increasing shelf life and reducing food waste”.
The reactions continue with the return to Italy, where two important entities linked to the paper and food world have expressed a favorable opinion on the orientation identified by the European institutions, albeit seen from very different markets.In the press release, Assocarta, Assografici SLC-CGIL, FISTEL CISL, UGL, ULCOM UIL express appreciation for the work of the European Parliament and, in particular, of the Italian parliamentarians, who have introduced important improvements by definitively approving the Hon. . Packaging Review Ries (PPWR).
According to the group of stakeholders, in fact, paper is recognized as a pillar of the European circular and social economy, effectively valorising the good employment in the sector, the renewable materials it produces and the recycling which optimize its life cycle .Here we are then with the reactions from the national food industry market, which echoes the general applause with the words of the president of Federalimentare , Paolo Mascarino :
“With the vote of the European Parliament on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) which exempts Member States that have reached a recycling percentage of 85% from reusing packaging, it crosses the line of reasonableness, common sense and of the scientific evidence of Italy which opposed the ideological vision that emerged in the Environment Commission, data, numbers and analysis in support of its theses, thus avoiding incalculable damage to our country that would have affected the production system. Having found a balanced point that did not penalize our collection industry in favor of reuse is certainly a victory for Italy and for the entire sector which has been able to count on excellent team work which has seen cohesive institutions, companies , industrial and social system towards a common goal. A negative impact on the employment and economic front was therefore avoided and would have canceled out the virtuous path of over twenty years, in which Italy became a leader on the issue of recycling, contributing to the growth of the agri-food chain which, let us remember, is worth more than 30% of Italian GDP”.There is no shortage of reflections from those who transport the products with the primary need to guarantee their integrity and conservation along the entire flow of the logistics chain, as underlined by Carlo Alberto Buttarelli , president of Federdistribuzione who comments:
The European Parliament has approved some essential requests for changes coming from the national supply chain, making the new regulatory text a little more balanced. The elimination, for example, of the ban on the marketing of disposable packaging for fruit and vegetables, which would have had serious repercussions in terms of safety and food waste, and the right balance between reuse and recycling, has brought the provision back to a more reasonable dimension . However, critical issues remain, where the ban on multi-product packaging is confirmed, the tendency to move towards forms of sales on tap, which have so far given questionable results both in terms of the environment and operational management, as well as the desire to push for the introduction of systems of security, which would see the distribution sector heavily involved, but also the production sector, in the event of any collection systems for reuse, the costs of which would inevitably fall on the supply chain and consumers.The word then passes to the Bestack Consortium, founded by International Paper, DS-Smith Packaging and Ghelfi Ondulati under the aegis of the trade association Gifco – Italian Corrugated Carton Manufacturers Group – which represents over 70% of Italian fruit and vegetable production.
“For a consumer who buys fruit and vegetable products, packaging is secondary” says director Claudio Dall’Agata “but important for communicating, protecting and extending the life of fresh products against waste… I don’t agree with who says that the type of packaging makes it more or less ecological. Scientific and authoritative research attests that 70% or more of the environmental impact of a production is given by how the soil is used and how it is cultivated. Waste has an impact on 9%, packaging for 5%. Sustainability, therefore, is a very broad concept, which starts from the field and ends with consumption. From this situation our packaging sector must learn a very important lesson, namely not to look only at your own backyard, not to wage a war between materials. Very well when we talk about reuse, less impactful materials, ‘intelligent packaging’ that limits waste, but we must offer the consumer fruit and vegetables in the best conditions and therefore all the links in the supply chain are called into question.”
Remaining in the food world, the comment of Pro Food group part of Unionplast, which in a statement places the emphasis on the affirmation of a scientific approach as opposed to the ideological one, is very critical although positive .
While hoping for the absolute need to avoid forms of overpackaging, Pro Food highlights how the Italian model has ultimately proven to be among the most credible and practicable in the search for the complex balance between production needs and sustainability. In fact, recycling returns to the center as a solution to be affirmed and spread even in European states that have focused less on this industrial chain.
According to the group of fresh food packaging producers, much remains to be done; this is why in making ourselves available to the Italian Government, the hope, as stated in the press release, is that:
“In the work of the Council of the Union first, and in the discussions between the Council, Parliament and Commission then, Italy can consolidate its positions, continuing to support its interests and defend the sustainability and quality of our production, distribution and consumption of food and drinks (and management of related waste): excellences envied abroad, in which packaging plays a fundamental role. Even the disposable plastic ones, much reviled but in reality now increasingly better used, increasingly recyclable and recycled and, in many cases, irreplaceable.”
Emphasis on recycling also by the Comieco Consortium , which in a comment on the vote highlights how the Paper District with its performances on that front confirms itself as strategic for the circular economy, as confirmed by the numbers of the paper supply chain which in 2023 consolidated the its position with over 3.6 million tonnes of paper and cardboard collected and recycled, equal to over 80% of the total and 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided.
Results that largely exceed what is required by the EU objectives for 2025 and close to reaching – already this year – the 2030 target set at 85%. These are numbers that the European Parliament could not ignore when voting on the PPWR, placing recycling at the center of the Green New Deal policies in view of the interinstitutional negotiation with the Council and the European Commission.
The EP, we read in Comieco’s in-depth analysis, has in fact approved the exemption for the binding reuse objectives if the 85% recycling target is reached, also involving composite cellulosic packaging, i.e. those which, according to the new definition introduced from PE, are made up of more than 10% non-paper material, such as beverage cartons.
The reflection shared by EuPC, European Plastics Converters and in particular by the general director Bernard Merkx is of a different nature.
Although the shared objectives of neutrality of packaging and circularity of materials create the equal conditions that Europe needs, we read in the note, the vote in parliament still takes on too negative a connotation towards plastic and circularity objectives which would allow it to be achieved if adequately valorised.
The European Association of Processors notes the maintenance in the parliamentary document of many amendments excluding plastic packaging originally present in the report of the Environment Commission – ENVI -.
An aspect that according to the transformers continues to consolidate the emotional approach towards this material, with measures such as special reduction objectives for some plastic packaging, exemptions for composite packaging from the quotas for the use of recycled materials, bans on disposable stretch films, etc.
According to EuPC, the lack of rational support for a plastics transformation and recycling industry highlights the low consideration of the European institutions towards a sector that has constantly worked to improve the sustainability, recyclability, circularity and performance of its packaging offer.
Finally, EuPC states that solutions such as credit-based systems and precise exemptions should be included in the PPWR, to allow the plastics processing and recycling industry, made up mostly of SMEs, and their customers, to adapt and support the natural growth of the high-quality recycled materials market.