The European Union’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) is making its final steps through the legislative process, with a European Parliament plenary vote expected by the end of November 2023.
The PPWR has seen many delays over the last two years. It has faced a high level of industry lobby interest with EU decision-makers facing pressure from industrial actors who are striving to maintain business-as-usual. As a result, the road to a strong and ambitious PPWR has not been easy: #WeChooseReuse advocates and supporters have both welcomed legislation drafts and proposals, but there has been the need to really push back on industry narratives that have discredited reusable packaging systems and the environmental benefits these systems could bring if fully supported and implemented.
As we near the Plenary vote, #WeChooseReuse advocates and #BreakFreeFromPlastic and Rethink Plastic alliance members gathered in Brussels this week to keep up the pressure on EU decision makers to adopt a strong and ambitious PPWR. We used the opportunity to ask some of our key partners what's at stake for them and their stakeholders in the upcoming PPWR, and why reuse must be centre and forefront of any new regulation:
ANEC represents the collective voice of European consumers in the development and use of standards, and looks to help shape European policy and legislation that intend to make reference to standards. Our aim is to achieve the highest levels of consumer protection and welfare practicable.
Reuse can play an important role in preventing packaging and packaging waste. We support the prioritisation of reuse systems over single-use packaging where sensible for consumers and the environment. Reuse systems should meet the following criteria: (1) they should ensure convenience, hygiene and safety; (2) they should have lower environmental impacts in the life-cycle than single-use packaging. This way, consumers can choose to help reduce the use of resources when they buy or (re)use packaging.
National consumer surveys undertaken by our members - and also a recent one in 11 countries of the BEUC membership - show consumers want more sustainable packaging. From the consumer perspective, ANEC broadly welcomes the proposed PPWR for its emphasis on prevention, reuse, information requirements, and mandatory deposit return systems. These are all aspects for which we have called for several years.
The proposed PPWR is a tool to achieve improvements for both consumers and the environment and we believe the proposed regulation should be first and foremost more ambitious in terms of preventing (especially avoidable) packaging waste, and restrictions on harmful substances in packaging.
It is essential that the revision process now ongoing in the European Parliament and the European Council adheres more strongly to the waste hierarchy. Notably, the emphasis the waste hierarchy places on reducing the hazardousness of waste.
ZWE works with nearly 500 European municipalities who have committed to become zero waste, which means implementing policies which don't generate any waste in the first place. In recent years, we have seen pioneer municipalities and regions across Europe work with their communities to tackle the issue of plastic pollution, through the introduction of local reuse policies and systems. Yet these best practices are sadly too limited, as the current system continues to place extra costs and burden on reusable alternatives compared to single-use. Too often, it is also local authorities who have to deal with the environmental costs of plastic at the end of their life, with the economic impact paid for by local citizens.
Reuse is so important for European municipalities. It's unjust and unfair that the cleaning, management and disposal of single-use plastics falls on local authorities and citizens who bear no responsibility for the continuing flood of these materials onto the market. The new PPWR should, at the very least, create a legislative framework that provides economic incentives for cities and businesses to prioritise reuse, whilst also supporting strong collection systems for reuse and refill such as DRS. We hope that ambitious legally binding targets on reusable products will also be introduced to change the current status quo.
At New ERA, the European Reuse Alliance, we stand as a collective voice for organizations promoting reusable packaging solutions throughout Europe. Our mission is to drive meaningful policy debate on reuse systems and advocate for well-informed EU policies that unleash the boundless possibilities of reuse systems across the continent.
We firmly believe that embracing well-designed reuse systems represents a critical step in mitigating the significant environmental consequences of our prevailing linear economy. Shifting from single-use to reusable packaging reduces packaging waste, minimizes the extraction of finite raw materials, lowers energy consumption, and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions. Further, creating opportunities for companies to take advantage of new value pools (sanitization, material production, branding).
We support the European Commission's proposed regulation on packaging and packaging waste (PPWR,) presenting a significant opportunity for positive change. To further maximize the impact of PPWR, we propose key policy recommendations, including setting more ambitious targets for reuse and refill, recognizing they are fundamentally different, prioritizing the standardization of reusable packaging, incorporating prevention and reuse into Extended Producer Responsibility obligations, implementing deposit refund systems, and establishing an EU observatory on reuse for knowledge sharing and evaluation.
Join us to combat single-use packaging waste and drive the transition toward a truly circular economy by signing the rEUse Manifesto.