Refillable beverages and reusable packaging in Europe

Reusable packaging in Europe: Boosting business and closing the loop

6th European Conference about Reusable Packaging, 23 March 2017, Brussels

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The Reuse-Conference is organized every two years by Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe – DUH), the European Association of Beverage Wholesalers (CEGROBB) and the Association of Small and Independent Breweries in Europe (S.I.B.). This year, the conference has been also co-hosted by the Reloop platform for the first time. 

With the ongoing negotiations of the Circular Economy Package (CEP), 2017 sets the course for the future European waste policy. In this context, the ReUse-Conference aims to push reuse to the top-level of the agenda in order to strengthen and integrate the reuse principle in the CEP. The conference is building networks among different interest groups, presents innovations in the reuse sector and addresses problems that hinder the reuse sector from growth. It offers a platform for participants from all three branches of European legislative (EU Commission, EU Parliament and EU Council) as well as for participants from regional to multi-national companies and non-governmental organizations to discuss reusable packaging as a major contributor to waste prevention. The conference focused on refillable beverage packaging and on reusable transport packaging. Both sectors are best practice examples for an environmentally conscious product design and a vibrant Circular Economy.

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Why do we need reusable packaging?

Today, we are overwhelmed by packaging waste: Between 2000 and 2015, the share of plastic packaging has grown per year by 5% and claims now a share of 25% of all packaging types. Most packaging is used only once, and hence, 95% of this plastic is lost after a one-time use. To tackle the excessive waste generation, we need a transition from the nowadays Linear Economy to a Circular Economy. But this transition can only be successful if relying on reuse systems.

Reuse systems play a particularly important role in implementing the five-stage European waste hierarchy. In a decreasing sequence of priority, non-avoidable waste should be reused, recycled, recovered or disposed. Reusable packaging ideally corresponds to this targeting and it outperforms recycling. As compared to continually manufacturing new products, the reuse of packaging and products not only saves resources, avoids waste and protects the climate, but it is also an engine that creates hundreds of thousands of green and regional jobs in the EU.

The 2015 CEP proposal by the Juncker-led Commission in fact lacks in ambition, criticize DUH, CEGROBB, S.I.B. and Reloop. Especially as it provides no targets to reduce resource consumption and waste generation, and attenuates previously proposed recycling targets. Reuse schemes contribute significantly to waste prevention in many Member States and should be particularly promoted in order to make the transition to a Circular Economy a reality. In our joint position paper we outline steps that must be taken in order to strengthen reusable packaging in Europe and in order to move Europe towards a sustainable economy:

What does politics need to do?

  1. Set clear targets to reduce resource consumption
  2. Introduce mandatory waste prevention targets for packaging waste
  3. Promote reuse through separate and binding reuse targets for sales packaging, transport packaging and beverage packaging
  4. A joint target for reuse and recycling, as has been provided so far in the draft of the Circular Economy Package proposed by the EU Commission should be avoided.  Firstly, a joint quota would lead to less recycling, because already existing reuse systems would be counted towards attainment of the targets. Furthermore, there would hardly be an incentive for intensifying reuse.  
  5. Implement an EU-wide deposit system for single-use beverage packaging in order to reduce littering, enable a closed loop recycling and provide take-back systems that also set the infrastructure for reusable packaging.
  6. Reusable packaging should be clearly labelled whether it is reusable or single-use only. This way, consumers are able to make purchasing decisions in favour of environmentally friendly reusable packaging. This is necessary in particular for beverage packaging, because there are reusable as well as disposable bottles of glass and plastic and, in the case of a deposit system, both are also returned at retail level.
  7. Safeguard the achievement of set targets by installing an Early Warning System and by making official public reports on attained results and data quality compulsory

Contact

Copyright: Heidi Scherm

Thomas Fischer
Leiter Kreislaufwirtschaft
Tel.: 030 2400867-43
E-Mail: fischer@duh.de

Copyright: Heidi Scherm

Philipp Sommer
Stellvertretender Leiter Kreislaufwirtschaft
Tel.: 030 2400867-462
E-Mail: sommer@duh.de

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