The upcoming revision of the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) has sparked a vigorous debate among policymakers, industry stakeholders, and environmental advocates. As UNIPAKHELLAS, a circular corrugated business committed to sustainability, we firmly support the European Union’s ambition to reduce the environmental impact of packaging waste while enhancing the functioning of the market. However, the proposed amendments of the PPWR, particularly the ones regarding the introduction of mandatory reuse targets for all materials, have us concerned about the consequences and potential drawbacks they will bring.

Dimitris Karatzas, Area General Manager said: “While we fully endorse the Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan 2.0 and share the collective ambition of achieving climate neutrality and promoting sustainability, we believe that it is essential to consider the environmental, economic, and social benefits when determining the appropriate approach to achieve these goals. “

In the case of corrugated cardboard, with over 90% recycling rate making it the most recycled packaging material in Europe, our industry has made significant strides in developing a circular model that utilizes 100% recyclable paper-based packaging for the benefit of the environment.

However, the proposed revisions risk hindering this balance between reusing and recycling, potentially leading to the rise of plastic packaging, and therefore to the increase of plastic waste and pollution. These legislative measures threaten the corrugated packaging industry, a sector with a proven record of promoting sustainability, while setting back the EU’s goals of further expanding the circular economy. Based on FEFCO’s latest study, it is indicative that plastic crates are unlikely to be reused enough to outperform corrugated trays, as they would have to be reused sixty-three times to be better for climate. In addition, the Commission’s proposal did not take into consideration the negative environmental impact and increased carbon footprint coming from the transportation and washing installations of reusable plastic trays.

EU's Packaging Regulation Revision Poses Potential Risks to Plastic Reduction Efforts

This does not mean that reuse targets should not be implemented. It means that a balance should be maintained and that reuse targets should be realistic and have a positive impact on the environment, the economy, and society at large. As the Director General of FEFCO, Eleni Despotou, has stated, “reuse targets should only be established where they are technically feasible, economically viable, and are proven environmentally beneficial.” The concept of “fit-for-purpose” packaging should be central in any EU legislation to maintain the crucial and steady progress for a sustainable future.

As the EU revises the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, it is vital to consider the diverse perspectives and potential consequences of the proposed amendments. UNIPAKHELLAS supports the European Commission’s commitment to reduce the negative environmental impacts of packaging waste and achieve a circular economy. Nevertheless, we advocate for a balanced approach that acknowledges the value of both recycling and reusing, while also recognizing the unique strengths and benefits of materials such as corrugated cardboard in achieving sustainable packaging solutions. By embracing innovation and collaboration, we can pave the way towards a greener and more efficient future.