Packing it up: producers express concerns as PPWR faces scrutiny

In the last 20 years, we have been dealing with a growing issue of pollution and waste.

This issue puts the packaging industry front and centre of the perception of excessive use of packaging materials and the prevalence of non-recyclable materials and how we dispose of them.

The European Commission introduced the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) in 2022. This was done to address the urgent need for a more careful and environmentally conscious approach.

The PPWR’s aim, as we all know, is to curb packaging waste. But delve beneath the top level, and it is clear there is extensive lobbying, from different interested parties, who are trying to influence the direction of PPWR.

Now we have stakeholders of the packaging industry represented by various trade bodies releasing a joint statement raising concerns over proposed EU legislation impacting producer responsibility organisations (PROs) in the packaging sector.

The statement calls on EU legislators to reconsider references to “state-run producer responsibility organisations” in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).

The stakeholders fear that including provisions for state-owned PROs could undermine the EU’s leadership on EPR initiatives across the world.

The organisations find the provisions incompatible with the idea of producer responsibility and rather interestingly say the inclusion of such references in EU legislation, according to the joint statement, could create loopholes allowing member states to evade their legal obligations. Moreover, it is argued that this move could adversely affect packaging recycling rates.

It is clear that the direction of travel for PPWR is no longer the one intended.

At the heart of the debate is the role of PROs, and what they will become. We shouldn’t forget the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 and the progress made in recycling and sustainability efforts.

EU legislators are now faced with calls to revisit the references to state-owned PROs in the draft PPWR.

While the tug of war over PPWR and what the final page will comprise. It’s fairly safe to assume that brand owners, and therefore packaging producers, will get on with making changes. They have to look at their environmental standing as well as respond to consumer pressure.

And what will PPWR look like, when it finally becomes law, bearing in mind that, once voted in, it will take two or three years to have teeth? Whatever it looks like, its impact won’t be felt for a few years and the potential investment costs for compliance could be huge. This one will run and run…

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