Packaging and Sustainability
Chemical recycling must be accounted for in the right way
Discussion on chemical recycling of packaging and current regulatory projects at the 20th AGVU Orientation Day
On Thursday, 22 June, the 20th “AGVU Orientation Day” took place. The conference with more than 100 participants from industry, politics and administration as well as press and NGOs offered a broad insight into current regulatory projects, the controversial topic “chemical recycling”, as well as the CO2-saving potential of the packaging sector.
Stefanie Schäfter from the Federal Ministry for the Environment first presented the status of work for the “National Circular Economy Strategy” planned for 2024. The strategy is to contribute to the reduction of primary raw material consumption and the decarbonisation of industry.
Dr. Aliaksandra Shuliakevich from the German Chemical Industry Association, and Dr. Alexander Kronimus, Plastics Europe Germany, explained the principles and opportunities of chemical recycling, which breaks down plastic waste into its molecular components: “These technologies offer the chance that waste that cannot be recycled mechanically can be recycled in a high-quality way and, for example, used again for food contact”. Controversial discussions focused on methods for assigning the property “recycled” to the quantities of plastic produced in a complex process. “There must be no whitewashing here – chemical recycling must be accounted for in the right way,” said Thorsten Hornung from the recycling company Saperatec – it is indispensable that consumers can rely on statements about the recycled content of packaging.
In the second part of the event, a study was presented that forecasts the contribution of the packaging sector to the German climate neutrality target in 2045. “According to our calculations, CO2 emissions from the packaging sector in Germany can be reduced by up to 94% by 2045 compared to 2021,” explained Kurt Schüler from the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung (GVM). This enormous savings potential, he said, was due to a triad of improved recycling of packaging, the conversion of production and recycling processes to renewable energies, and declining packaging consumption in Germany.
Another focus was on a planned revision of the national Packaging Act, which is intended to ensure that sustainable packaging will be more financially rewarding for manufacturers in the future: “The instrument of EPR fees can be used to effectively reward the environmentally friendly design of a package,” explained Dr. Juliane Hilf from the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Moreover, this long-awaited initiative of the Federal Environment Ministry does not conflict with the contents of the EU Packaging Regulation currently being negotiated in Brussels, emphasised Hilf.
AGVU has been committed to product responsibility in packaging since 1986. and advocates environmentally sound and resource-saving use and recycling. The association represents the entire value chain: from the packaging industry to the consumer goods industry and trade to the dual systems, disposal companies and recyclers.
Packaging and Sustainability
Of cycles and quotas, reusables and bans
EU Commission proposes new rules for packaging
Packaging must become more sustainable – with this declared goal, the EU Commission published a comprehensive legislative proposal today. The draft European Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation contains rules for the entire packaging life cycle – from environmentally friendly design to efficient recycling.
The creation of uniform EU-wide standards and rules for the packaging sector is an essential step towards a complete circular economy. Among other things, significantly higher demands are to be made on the recyclability of packaging from 2030 to reduce resource consumption. From the same date, all plastic packaging is to contain proportions of ten to thirty percent of already recycled material – so-called recyclates. “So far, the use of recyclates has stagnated in many sectors – with ambitious EU targets, a new dynamic could unfold here,” explains AGVU Chairman Dr Carl Dominik Klepper. “In the case of food packaging, however, the quota will come to nothing if legal approvals for its use continue to be lacking. Here, the EU Commission disappoints with a lack of solution perspectives”.
In future, a new labelling system will enable consumers to identify which bin a package belongs in: this will be ensured by standardised pictograms on both the packages and the corresponding waste bins. “What belongs where is sometimes a bit of a guessing game – but only correctly separated materials can be recycled properly. It is high time that it is made easier for consumers to contribute to environmental protection” emphasises Carl Dominik Klepper.
In the areas of beverage cups, bottles and cans, the trade is to meet ambitious reusable quotas in the future. However, the text leaves open how it is to be ensured that new reusable systems represent an ecological advantage. “After all, this is not automatically a given. For example, reusable containers should be cleaned, refilled and delivered regionally to avoid long transport routes and thus emissions” comments Carl Dominik Klepper.
The EU Commission is also presenting a ban list of certain disposable packaging. This would affect, for example, micro-packaging for milk, sugar or soy sauce, as well as many fruit and vegetable packages. “With such detailed regulations, but also with the very far-reaching documentation and proof obligations for companies that the EU Commission envisages, the costs and benefits are disproportionate” says Carl Dominik Klepper.
In the coming months, the European Parliament and the Council – the representation of the EU member states – will each make amendments to the EU Commission’s proposal and then negotiate a compromise text.
The AGVU has been committed to product responsibility in packaging since 1986 and advocates environmentally sound and resource-saving use and recycling. The association represents the entire value chain: from the packaging industry to the consumer goods industry and trade to the dual systems, disposal companies and recyclers.
Anna Kupferschmitt, Head of EU Affairs and Communications
Arbeitsgemeinschaft Verpackung + Umwelt e.V., Reinhardtstr. 25, 10117, Tel.: +49 30 – 206 426 60, E-Mail: email@example.com