Costs of reuse in the study “Impact Assesment of reuse targets in proposed PPWR” and comparison with carton packaging

A new study commissioned by Cepi, ECMA,EPPA, FEFCO AND Pro Carton investigates the possible effects of a generalized change in the approach to packaging, with packaging production in line with the logic of reuse as envisaged by the new EU Regulation on Packaging and Packaging Waste. “Impact Assessment of reuse targets in proposed PPWR” highlights how a large-scale approach, inadequately measured and balanced, could prove counterproductive on several fronts, going so far as to adversely affect the environment with increased CO2 emissions, and weighing in no small part on businesses and consumers, who would bear the brunt of the costs. The study takes available data on the production and management of paper, cardboard and plastic packaging to develop two separate models. The first advances projections on take-out food packaging in Belgium, the second, on packaging for the e-commerce sector in Germany. The study compares the impact of cardboard packaging for delivery as currently managed, with that of reusable plastic packaging if adopted according to the 2030 reuse targets outlined in the new European Regulation.

Reusable packaging, according to the study, would produce 160 percent more CO2 emissions than paper and cardboard packaging production for the delivery sector and 40 percent more for the e-commerce sector. The reason for such a shift in values evidently lies in a production, that of paper and cardboard packaging, that today reaps the virtuous fruits of decades of investment in recycling, design for circularity, and the most recent legislation on plastic pollution. An across-the-board shift toward reuse would require the time and cost required to develop an entirely new packaging model, which would still have more onerous costs mostly passed on to consumers.

Among the most penalizing items undoubtedly transportation, which in the case of reusable packaging, requires a return to the manufacturer after delivery or purchase, as opposed to recycling requirements that occur closer to the consumer, regardless of where the pack was originally produced. Here is what Jori Ringman, director general of Cepi, Confederation of European Paper Industries, says about this.

“Done right, reuse and recycling could be complementary solutions to achieve greater circularity. What the EU legislation currently states is that the decision to seek one solution or the other should be based on justified reasons of, among others, technical feasibility, economic viability and environmental protection. This cannot be decided by a general EU-wide decision as proposed by the European Commission, but must be done on a case-by-case basis, while preference should be given to options that offer the best possible environmental outcome.

“[…] With this new report, we are advancing an overview of what the science says about reusable, fossil-based and recyclable, fiber-based packaging and their respective impacts on climate and the environment in two well-studied case studies. The results illustrate that broad targets for reusable packaging simply do not conform to an evidence-based approach of the environmental beneficiary […].”

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