Making reuse the norm across Europe again
To achieve the EU sustainability and climate goals, a shift in the way we consume and produce products and materials needs to urgently change. We need to move away from business as usual and re-design products and systems with circularity in mind, in line with the waste hierarchy. The revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation represents an opportunity to transform how Europe packages and distributes its products, moving the focus away from just recycling. We need the EU to support this transition by putting in place regulatory measures focused on waste prevention and reuse. – Larissa Copello, Consumption & Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe
In 2019, the amount of packaging waste generated in the EU was estimated at 177.4 kg per inhabitant. As levels of packaging production and consumption continue to rise, especially for single-use applications, the current waste management systems cannot cope with the increasing amount of waste.
So far, the measures taken to address packaging waste have mostly focused on recycling and failed, with most of it either exported out of Europe or destined for low-value applications. To date, landfilling and incineration are still the dominant approaches to managing packaging waste; and the rates of littering and environmental leakage of plastics remain unacceptable.
Just like you cannot run trains on roads, you cannot run reuse in a system designed for single-use.
It’s time to get back to the good reuse practices that preceded the boom of single-use plastics, and ensure we use our resources in a sustainable, circular way.
On 30 November 2022, the European Commission published its long awaited proposal on the revision of Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). The proposal puts forward for the first time measures aiming at reducing waste at source, including waste prevention and reuse targets. It also brings the notion and specific requirements for re-use systems for packaging, which are essential for such systems to work effectively.
This revision is the opportunity Europe needs to implement ambitious legislation that enables the development of the infrastructure needed to build efficient systems for reusable packaging, making sure they are mainstream, interoperable and accessible to all across Europe , in line with the waste hierarchy and moving away from single-use packaging.
Not only is reuse higher in the waste hierarchy than recycling (of single-use packaging), several studies also prove that, in the right situations, reusable packaging performs much better than single-use packaging from an environmental and economic standpoint whilst also bringing about health and social benefits.
It’s time to get back to widespread reuse systems.
The #GETBACK Campaign
For reusable packaging systems to be efficient, a set of conditions need to be in place:
- Collection points;
- Containers (right packaging design and durability;
- Return incentives;
- Reverse logistics;
- Washing, sanitisation and handling of foodware;
- Labelling and education.
The #GETBACK campaign asks for reuse systems to be scaled up and harmonised across Europe through well-designed systems; and for the right infrastructure and policy to be put in place to support this.
The EU should provide legal certainty and direction for the packaging sector through the new EU Packaging legislation to invest in a systemic and efficient infrastructure for reuse capable of achieving economies of scale and moving away from single-use packaging.
In addition to the reuse and waste prevention targets, the regulation should ensure the harmonisation and interoperability of reusable packaging across the EU. This can only be successfully done ifcomplementary investment and measures are in place to support and optimise this transition.
With all this in mind…
Dear EU, how about making reuse the norm in Europe again?
Get serious. Get moving. Get back.
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