05 Apr, 2023

Packaging measures could lead to more carbon emissions and water waste

On 28 March, ALDE Party hosted a Stakeholder Series event titled “The Road to Circularity - Boosting Recycling Rates in Europe” in collaboration with McDonalds.  

Over the past decade waste packaging' has increased by 20%. This accounts for over 40% of plastics and 50% of paper materials used in Europe. To tackle this growing challenge, the EU has set out proposed revisions for the existing Packaging and Packaging Waste directives. This includes a 15% reduction of waste packaging per member state by 2040, and sectoral climate neutrality by 2050. Concerns have been raised however, with critics claiming measures proposed by the European Commission could lead to an increase of carbon emissions and water waste.  

During the event moderated by Martin Hojsík MEP, participants gained insight on these proposals. The panel of experts from the private and public sectors discussed the proposed measures with an emphasis on re-use materials in dine-in restaurants, which could lead to greater carbon output alongside plastic and water waste.  

In his opening address, Nils Torvalds MEP highlighted the joint consensus with his peers: “Everyone in the Parliament agrees we have too much packaging waste but the proposed measures provided a lot of unpractical answers”.  

Torvalds stressed that there appears to be no impact assessment for different types of packaging: “Upstream from packaging coming to your door, and downstream from that, have very different technical structures”. He further expressed concern over how the Commission selected the measures, stating they appeared rushed and unworkable.  

Floor Uitterhoeve, Director of European Market Sustainability at McDonalds was critical of any legislation that was not well researched stating: “For regulation to be effective, it must be fact based, consistent and implementable. Measures and restrictions on paper-based packaging are not based on facts.” 

Uitterhoeve pointed out the unintended consequences these measures may bring and discussed how re-use models in their restaurants led to 4 to 16 times increase in waste alongside increased carbon emissions. 

She stated that to ensure effective and impactful policies, wider value chains must be involved from manufacturer, user and recycler. She highlighted how McDonalds plays an active role, working with its suppliers and waste disposers to reduce its packaging impact on the environment through sustainable materials and practices.  

Johan Aurik, Chairman Emeritus at Kearney, further discussed the need for evidence-based legislation which is effective and impactful: “It is very important that there is specificity. The right metrics and the right set of solutions that allows flexibility in this sector in a successful way.”  

He emphasized the importance of protecting the investment in relevant infrastructure: “Make legislation that is written so different paths can be achieved, and chosen by different industries, different sectors, and different markets. There must be scalable solutions to invest in long term. 

Aurik explained that two out of three of the 300,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) affected by these proposals are independent, and may not have the resources to implement these measures. He warned that mandatory re-use for these organisations would lead to an increase of plastic waste by 1500% and higher carbon emissions for the logistics used to support these measures operations. 

Watch the event in full here or below: 

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