Accelerating circularity through legislation
Unlocking the full potential of a circular economy requires close collaboration and willingness across multiple sectors. When we look at our industry, we see that consumers are demanding it, food producers and retailers are supporting it, and collectors, sorters, recyclers, and packaging suppliers are doing it. However, the transition towards a circular economy can be further accelerated by legislation that supports it.
Today, an entire infrastructure has been organised around maintaining PET bottles as a valuable resource that is 100% recyclable. Recycling drives value by replacing a portion of virgin raw materials. We need the same systems for rigid food packaging. Too many products today are difficult to recycle or contaminate existing recycling streams. Sorting infrastructure across Europe is improving, but certain shortcomings still needs to be mitigated. At Faerch, we collaborate with the entire plastic value chain to set ambitious targets and we support initiatives to transform the plastic industry.
Joining forces to drive change
Our aim is to make food packaging fully circular and, as an integrated recycler, we have successfully closed the loop on recycled PET trays on an industrial scale. But we can do much more. For the circular economy of materials to become commonplace, market mechanisms will need to play a dominant role, supported by legislation. We need to collaborate across sectors and industries, and we can drive change with the support of governments, businesses, local authorities, citizens, and consumers.
Designing for circularity in food packaging
One of the key factors for circularity is to design with circular capabilities from the beginning. This creates the foundation for a product being recycled into new food grade products after use.
We recognise that requirements may differ widely across various packaging categories. As a rigid food-packaging supplier, we cannot limit our efforts solely to establishing true circularity. We need to bring packaging in balance with our overriding goal of food safety and reducing food waste. That said, packaging suppliers in other segments may face different challenges, for instance with multi-material flexible packaging.
We support bold joint commitments within the packaging industry as a whole combined with ambitious company-specific targets – these will benefit all of us. As an industry, there may be discussions about details like definitions, specific targets, and timelines. But as a plastic converter, we need to create an environment where the rest of the value chain, and society at large, chooses circularity. We need to:
Ensure that mono-materials are incentivised, i.e. tax or ban those materials that cannot realistically be recycled and ensure they disappear from the market as soon as possible. This would enable all packaging placed on the market to be fully recyclable.
- Promote the use of recycled content in packaging across all applications (including food packaging), e.g. with mandatory minimums for post-consumer content.
- Strengthen collection and sorting to make sure plastics are made fully available for recycling, i.e. kept in the economy and out of the environment.
- Protect and increase the quality of waste streams, e.g. food contact material in PET waste streams, and professionalise markets for post-consumer content.
“Clear guidance for ‘good food packaging’ is needed to continue benefitting from the positive properties of food packaging while avoiding problems related to waste of resources, littering and negative impact on climate change.”