Europe faces an important decision regarding the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) as the vote takes place in the European Parliament. This decision carries significant weight and will impact Europe's circular economy and green agenda. Opting for the correct choice will bolster Europe's strategic autonomy and economic resilience, while an incorrect decision would hinder progress and worsen plastic pollution.
At present, the Commission's proposal requires restaurant owners to shift to non-recyclable packaging made from fossil fuels, rather than renewable and recyclable paper packaging. Disturbingly, data indicates that this proposal would result in an increase of up to 1,500 percent in the use of non-recyclable rigid plastic packaging in the foodservice sector. A concerning example can be observed in France, where the ban on single-use paper packaging has led restaurants to adopt Tritan plastic, a fossil fuel-based product that substantially contributes to energy consumption during production. Such a shift exacerbates plastic pollution and poses risks to wildlife and the environment.
Preliminary findings reveal that these new products have failed to meet expectations in terms of reuse, with a loss rate of 15 percent and items frequently discarded after just six uses. Conversely, single-use paper packaging sourced from sustainable forests provides a renewable alternative that aids in carbon capture and achieves the highest recycling rate compared to other materials. A life cycle assessment demonstrates that paper packaging produces considerably lower CO2 emissions and utilizes less freshwater than reusable alternatives, even when estimating conservative levels of use.
Developing packaging legislation based on independent scientific research is of utmost importance. The current proposal relies on an impact assessment that overlooked key scientific data, resulting in a biased viewpoint. Consequently, it is disconcerting that the European Parliament's Environment Committee missed an opportunity to eliminate reusable targets for dine-in settings based on this flawed assessment. Therefore, it is imperative for MEPs to align with science-based policies and evaluate reuse and recycling based on their environmental impacts and benefits to the environment, economy, and strategic autonomy.Europe has been at the forefront of developing a circular economy over the past thirty years, with paper packaging playing a key role in this sustainable system. However, the proposed regulations known as the PPWR could potentially put this progress in jeopardy by banning single-use paper packaging. Such a move would disrupt recycling chains and impede the greening of important industries like agriculture, food, and pharmaceuticals.
Recent crises have underscored Europe's need for security and stability. It is concerning that the current PPWR proposal could further undermine this stability by weakening a fully European supply chain that is crucial to our strategic self-reliance and circular economy. Protecting the European fiber industry is about more than just reducing plastic production and conserving energy and water; it is also about safeguarding a sector that supports 647,000 jobs across vital sectors including forestry, manufacturing, services, and recycling. While the supply chain is highly productive, it is also fragile. Years of developing circular economy systems could be at risk if paper packaging is placed at a disadvantage.
As Members of the European Parliament prepare for the crucial vote on the PPWR, we urge them to choose the environmentally responsible path. This entails supporting a version of the PPWR that encourages the best environmental solution and does not impose a ban on renewable, recyclable, and high-performing paper-based packaging. This approach is essential for preserving finite resources, mitigating climate change, and safeguarding strategic industries and innovation.