Packaging 360 > Packaging circularity as seen by the main players on the local market
The second edition of the Packaging 360 conferences tackled this year the theme of Packaging Circularity, at a critical time both from the perspective of the environmental problems that packaging waste generates, but also from the perspective of increasing separate collection and recycling rates for each material.
16 speakers specialised in packaging issues, from their production, collection, recycling and reintroduction into the economic circuit, presented their views by clarifying many of the sensitive points in the packaging value chain. The first part of the conference debated “Packaging Circularity and Waste Management”, starting with the new draft of european regulation on packaging – Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).
This year’s edition of the conference Packaging 360 – Circularity of Packaging was supported by the partners Kaufland Romania, Reciclad`OR, Tiplog, Nestle, Tomra, GreenGroup and Tchibo through the Davidoff brand. Media partners were Green Report and Packshow, the exhibition organised by Euroexpo.
Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation(PPWR) – the European Commission’s proposal for a new packaging and packaging waste regulation, comes to amend the (EU) 2019/1020 Regulation and the (EU) 2019/904 Directive and repeal Directive 94/62/EC. The draft regulation has sparked strong reactions, the EU 27 environment ministers calling for more flexibility in packaging legislation.
“Much more important is to understand how this regulation and the elimination of the negotiation process for the 27 Member States on the Directive came about. The regulation is being implemented in all EU Member States at the same time. First of all, the manufacture of packaging in the European Union is one of the main economic activities using virgin raw material, 40% of plastics and 50% of paper are packaging materials. Secondly, packaging waste represents about 36% of municipal waste”, said Marius Brînzea, Strategy Director, Reciclad`OR, at the opening of the conference.
“The impact assessment of the Regulation found that there is a sub-optimal structure of the recycling market in the European Union due to differences in recycling requirements between Member States. The essential packaging requirements are unenforceable and some of them do not respect the waste hierarchy. The Single Use Plastic Directive has been a failure in implementation, with only 13 states having succeeded in banning plastic straws and plastic food crates altogether.The impact assessment also outlines the major problems that led to the transition from Directive to Regulation. The first major problem is the upward trend in single-use packaging. The current regulations cannot stop this trend, due to population growth and changes in consumer behaviour. The second major problem is increasing packaging waste, coupled with stagnating or even decreasing recycling rates. If we are talking about packaging circularity, then this requires a circularity of business models. Among the barriers to packaging circularity, the impact assessment lists poor design of packaging for recycling. Currently, 17% of packaging placed on the market is non-recyclable with the current technology. Furthermore, an increased contamination between recyclable and non-recyclable streams has been found due to differences in collection from region to region. In addition, there is a confusing labelling about the recyclability of packaging and collection systems,” Marius Brânzea said.
The overall objective of the PPWR is to harmonise the existing rules, to avoid discrimination between products made in the European Union, to harmonise the reporting obligations of economic operators through extended producer liability schemes and to eliminate administrative difficulties.
Given the objectives set by the PPWR, we asked Mihaela Frăsineanu, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests, how far or how close are we to the ambitions of the European Commission?
“The path of packaging and packaging waste management, the transition from Directive to Regulation, is very similar to the path of European initiatives on the circular economy. Started somewhere around 2014, the legislative framework in the circular economy has been broadened to ensure circularity of all products, with the focus shifting from waste to products. This is also happening in case of packaging and it is very good to discuss these issues because, in addition to the comments that each company can make on the European Commission’s website, it is very important the position of the EU Member State that the Romanian Ministry of Environment, together with the Ministry of Economy, will support in Brussels. This proposal for a regulation will come with much less flexible obligations than those that are now in the Directive”, said Mihaela Frăsineanu, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests.
“If we look at the reports that Romania makes to Eurostat and the European Commission, we can say that we are both close and far from the European ambitions. For plastic we are meeting our targets, it is true that we have to aim much higher because a regulation with much higher targets is coming, and for the other types of packaging we are getting closer to meeting the targets. In terms of the content of recycled material reintroduced into a new product, a new packaging, in terms of the availability of recycled material that can be introduced into new products is quite low. The functioning of the internal market, but also of the European market for recycled materials, is not very well developed. Romania argued in Brussels that there is a need for a much clearer designation of each operator in the packaging circularity chain, a clear demarcation of responsibilities for each of these economic operators. We need to be honest with each other and establish how willing we are to take many steps forward, but above all we need to be realistic and see if we have the capacity and technology to take these steps.”
As for the decrease in values and quantities of recycled materials reported for 2021 compared to 2020, Mihaela Frăsineanu said that, besides economic or regulatory reasons, in 2021 there may have been some reporting and data integration problems between the reports that are made between various institutions. “We are trying now to create a single reporting platform so that what has happened with reporting over the years will not happen again.”
As for the packaging that will not fall under the SGR, the Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment says that for these we have regulations on extended producer responsibility, as well as those referring to the Single Use Plastic Directive, and producers have the responsibility to collect directly or through the OIREPs this packaging and to reintroduce it into the economic circuit through recycling with some target-goals to be met, targets that remain valid.
From the perspective of the retailer who wants to put on the shelf, as its own brand, the products that the consumer is looking for, Valer Hancas, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communication at Kaufland Romania, pointed out that retailers and producers need to think about whether they have something to offer consumers in order to make them behave more responsibly, so that their consumption behaviour is in line with the provisions of Directives, Regulations and other administrative measures.
“I am an advocate of Regulations, not Directives, precisely because Regulations have a strict aspect, whereas Directives can be adapted to local social-economic specificities. As far as the Regulation is concerned, we have legislation in force that should lead us towards the targets set, regardless of the type of packaging, the nature of the producer or the brand owner”, Valer Hancas said.