EC’s PPWD reuse targets could destroy fossil-free sector, warns European Bioplastics

EUROPE – European Bioplastics (EUBP) has warned against the European Commission’s planned revisions of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD), saying the “ignorance” of the stipulations has “sent a shockwave” through the industry.

The association warns the EC’s focus on reusable packaging targets could effectively shut down the bioplastics sector altogether in Europe.

Leaked last month, the PPWD revisions are set to enforce stringent reuse and refill targets, which critics fear will diminish the recycling industry throughout the EU.

Proponents argue this focus will slash material usage and ensure a path toward the EU’s Green Deal.

The implications for the fast-developing bio-based and compostable packaging industry, which reportedly accounts for a market worth €51 billion (US$52.95 billion) to the EU economy and employs around 150,000 people, would also be heavily impacted.

“In its current version, the regulation would shut down entire European businesses developing innovative, sustainable packaging solutions,” says EUBP in a letter to the EC.

EUBP says bioplastics and compostable plastics are unfairly sidelined by the PPWD revisions.

“A ban on compostable packaging, as well as the reluctance to support the uptake of bio-based polymers to substitute fossil-based virgin material, which will always be needed no matter how much the recycling processes may advance, would freeze any further research and investments into this new space and would in effect shut down this industry in Europe,” says EUBP.

EUBP is drawing renewed attention to the deindustrialization sweeping across European sectors.

According to the association, four of the largest bioplastics producers – BASF, TotalEnergies Corbion, Novamont and Biotech/Sphere, have collectively invested €1.6 billion (US$1.66 billion) in plant construction and joint ventures, as well as further R&D.

Furthermore, more than €100 million (US$104 million) of the €1 billion (US$1.04 billion) Biobased Industry Joint Undertaking fund has been spent on R&D in this field. These investments are now under threat by EC legislation.

Over 600,000 tonnes of compostable and bio-based plastics were produced in the EU in 2021 – this figure is estimated to reach 1.3 million tonnes by 2026, says EUBP.

The association says it has united behind a vision for concrete targets for a circular packaging economy for 2025.

“We are fully aligned with the European Green Deal objectives to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and are committed to reaching ‘100% reusable, recyclable and compostable plastic packaging’ by that date.”

Leaving the industry open to employ these methods proportionally is essential, claims EUBP, while enforcing stringent reuse targets would contradict the EU’s original Green Deal mechanisms.

“It is key for policymakers to provide an enabling regulatory and policy landscape. Addressing the plastic waste challenge and meeting ambitious targets requires us to be able to select and choose between well-established packaging materials and the best novel technologies,” reads the letter.

“We, therefore, call upon the EC to respect its original political direction, the principle of proportionality and to ensure a level playing field for all circular technologies.”

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