Making food and drink packaging circular and sustainable is a societal challenge, and we cannot do it alone. We can design packaging that is technically recyclable, but waste collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure needs to be in place. We can innovate and design packaging that reduces GHG emissions, material use and water use, but recycling technology also needs to urgently evolve to make more kinds of packaging recyclable, especially plastics. We can provide recycling information, but inappropriate disposal behaviour and inadequate sorting also needs to be addressed. Food and drink manufacturers can contribute towards these shortcomings as part of the shared responsibility for waste management involving all actors, and we need our efforts to be matched by other involved actors.
What do we need in order to get there?
FoodDrinkEurope calls on EU policymakers to:
Ensure full implementation and enforcement of the EU waste package. Increased sorting and collection should be achieved through better performance of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes and where feasible, according to local conditions and on a case-by-case basis, deposit-return schemes.
Encourage all Member States to enact laws against the improper disposal of waste whether this be by industry or citizens and encourage corresponding penalties
Develop regulatory frameworks that offer equivalent levels of food safety and quality for alternative materials to plastics
Develop EU-harmonised criteria for the modulation of packaging fees and fiscal incentives.
Accelerate the release of EU funding aimed at stimulating investment in waste management infrastructure and innovative recycling technologies, such as chemical recycling (Structural Funds, European Fund for Strategic Investments, Circular Economy Finance Support Platform and Horizon 2020).
Encourage investment in new European end markets for recyclate beyond food packaging.
Address the need for availability and affordability of recycled PET, making sure material used for food and drink applications comes back to similar uses to ensure food safety.
Secure financing for novel food and drink packaging materials that improve circularity, more efficient and innovative recycling processes and the removal of contaminants from recycled materials to allow them to be used as food contact materials under the EU’s next research and innovation framework, Horizon Europe. Consumer acceptance of novel food and drink packaging materials should also be studied to ensure that they will be successful in the market.
Increase awareness raising activities and encourage Member States to develop educational programmes to motivate consumers to dispose of used packaging responsibly.