The urgency of the environmental challenges confronting us has reached an unprecedented level, shining a glaring spotlight on the unsustainable nature of our current single-use packaging practices. Accepting the status quo is no longer an option and profound shift towards reusing packaging, to complement but also take us beyond the limitations of recycling, is imperative.
This shift isn’t easy – it requires us to embrace and nurture new ways of doing things. But it brings enormous benefits, not just environmentally but also economically, in terms economic growth through the kinds of jobs and business opportunities that EU citizens want. And well-designed regulation to drive the reuse transition is widely supported, by many leading global brands and retailers, by civil society organisations and by academia.
Europe’s pivotal role in this transformation is undeniable, as it holds the potential to lead the global transition to a true circular economy. Within this context, it has become increasingly clear that our current approach to packaging in the EU is unsustainable, relying as it does on every-growing amount of material, mostly imported from outside the EU.
The burden of the environmental and financial cost of wasted packaging on citizens must be reduced and this is why the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) proposal is taking a vital step towards a more circular packaging economy.
Indeed, the proposal establishes ambitious reuse targets. The prominent role of reuse within the draft PPWR text is both a welcomed–and essential–inclusion. Setting forth clear and ambitious targets for both 2030 and 2040 is key to instilling confidence in Europe’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors to foster the next generation of packaging solutions.
In a region challenged by finite natural resources, the impetus for reuse is more than an environmental endeavour; it also embodies a crucial component of an ambitious, globally differentiated and diversified green industrial strategy in Europe, where we lead the way in shaping the industries of the future.
According to the Commission’s own estimates, the transition to reuse will contribute a net 600,000 jobs to the EU economy by 2030 and have an overall deflationary impact on the cost of consumer goods. Thus, the reuse transition signifies a shift away from growth driven by the consumption of imported natural resources, ushering in a new era of growth in green jobs and services within the EU–something that’s needed now more than ever.
With that said, it is imperative to acknowledge that, to maximise the potential of reuse in Europe, some further improvements are necessary. In particular, the most optimal legislative framework within the PPWR must be put in place to ensure that the reuse transition is smooth and efficient. Therefore, we call upon European co-legislators to:
Set stringent performance criteria. To ensure that packaging labelled as “reusable” truly fits the description, clear requirements must be established. These could outline, for example, the minimum number of reuse cycles a package must undergo before it’s counted as reusable, as well as standards for durability and hygiene.
Share responsibility throughout the value chain. Both manufacturers and final distributors are essential to making a reuse system work. Establishing clear obligations throughout the value chain to both provide and take-back reusable packaging is essential to unlocking the full potential of reuse. It’s equally important to apply targets to manufacturers and final distributors, and ensuring that these targets are met in every Member State they operate in. Consumers also have a vital part to play, as their actions are essential for ensuring that packaging is reused.
Aim higher to ensure success. It is essential that ambitious targets be maintained, if not increased. High and long-term targets are prerequisites for incentivising innovation and securing investments in reusable packaging systems. Targets must be set high enough that the size of the reuse market is sufficient to achieve economies of scale and the resulting efficiency benefits, providing a level playing field. Expansion of sectoral coverage should also be considered as a priority, as much of the infrastructure can be shared across sectors.
Always strive to improve. Transparency in reporting for reuse systems is essential, as is a dynamic review process that enables us to raise ambition as lessons are learned. Having mechanisms for evaluating and reporting on the performance of reusables, including key metrics like return rates, is crucial for progress.
Embrace refill’s role. Refill, where people fill their own containers instead of using single-use items, whether at-home or in-store, is a proven method of waste prevention and is highly complementary to reuse.
Set clear definitions, criteria, and metrics. Given the broad range of reuse and refill models, each with its unique characteristics, it is crucial to provide precise definitions of the models included under the targets.
The EU has the potential to lead the world in the development of the materials, systems, processes, and digital tools needed to deliver our reuse vision. A future where reuse is the norm is within our reach. Let us seize this opportunity to create a more sustainable and equitable world for all.
To join the coalition, contact Clarissa Morawski at email@example.com.