CEFLEX, the organisation dedicated towards establishing a circular economy model for flexible packaging, states that the EU Commission’s Packaging Directive has room for improvement.
Officially known as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD), said piece of legislation sets the universal recycling target for packaging at 95%. This means that for material to be recycled into high quality packaging, one needs to demonstrate that 95% of the source material already derives from packaging.
But plastic, especially in the food packaging industry, is not ‘one-size-fits-all’.
Manufacturers typically approach packaging with different needs in mind, ranging from airtightness to light-proofing, properties which to achieve require an amalgamation of different plastics within one package-for a mental picture, just consider the outside and inside of a regular chocolate bar wrapper. With the PPWD as it stands, most flexible packaging, which is prone to be made of hybrid plastics, do not stand a chance of being recycled and would have to be removed from the market over a three to five year period.
Graham Holder, Managing Director at CEFLEX, considers the regulation misleading in its current form.
“In reality, a ‘95%’ recyclable food packaging may use double the material and nearly twice as much CO2 to produce, transport and dispose of correctly than a 90% recyclable one.” Compromising by adopting an exclusively mono-material approach during package design would affect food safety, he argues, thereby leading to ‘increased food waste’, whilst the addition of useless material to packaging would in turn lead to more ‘packaging waste’.
According to him, changes that actually need to be upheld or implemented on European policy levels include the provision of financial incentives for circular design.
CEFLEX advocates for recyclability to be defined as packaging-format specific. The European consortium recommends the ‘Designing for a Circular Economy' guidelines (D4ACE) which were crafted in collaboration with hundreds of experts across the whole packaging value chain.
The organisation identifies investment in necessary sorting and recycling infrastructure as the second pillar to realising a circular economy in the packaging industry.
At all stages, collaboration and exchange with policy makers and member states will be needed to reach that lofty goal.