EUROPEN welcomes EU's focus on extended producer responsibility

Organization also cautions against widescale replacement of food packaging with bio-based and biodegradable compostable material.

July 9, 2015

The European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN), based in Brussels, has welcomed the European Parliament’s adoption of the resolution on resource efficiency and toward a circular economy.

In particular, EUROPEN supports the Parliament’s call to strengthen the EU regulatory framework for extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes by introducing binding minimum requirements regarding transparency and cost effectiveness of EPR schemes. The packaging supply chain calls on the European Commission to introduce such binding requirements for Member States that apply EPR, along with EU Guidance for Member States to clearly define national roles and responsibilities for all actors involved in packaging waste management.

“This will increase the level playing field among all existing EPR schemes, ensure better cost-effectiveness of EPR implementation with greater accountability for all involved actors and promote greater access to quality secondary raw materials for the manufacturing industry,” says Virginia Janssens, managing director of EUROPEN. “A strengthened EPR framework will also help reach current and future packaging recycling and/or recovery targets at the lowest sustainable cost to society.”

However, EUROPEN cautions that members of European Parliament’s (MEP) call to assess the feasibility of gradually replacing food packaging with bio-based and biodegradable compostable material would amount to a disproportionate market intervention and urges EU policymakers to take a lifecycle approach that looks at the whole value chain.

“This measure contradicts a lifecycle approach by suggesting that one packaging type could work for all food products solely based on its end-of-life phase while ignoring product needs and safety, suitability for different food processing technologies, cost implications for producers, sorting and recycling infrastructure,” says Janssens. “A lifecycle approach ensures that when changes are made in one part of the value chain the potential trade-offs that affect resource use and waste in another part of the value chain are taken into account. Resource efficiency is about enabling further net environmental improvements along individual supply chains. This is why one-size-fits-all regulatory measures across products and waste streams will not always offer the right solutions. Packaging-specific policies are still needed, considering the whole lifecycle of the packaged product. For instance, the end of a pack’s useful life is only one consideration, next to other considerations, such as technical functionalities, product safety, supply chain and distribution needs, cost, market requirements and consumer needs.”

Read more in EUROPEN’s position paper here and Factsheet on Extended Producer Responsibility for used packaging here.