Not all packaging materials are created equal
As a permanent material, glass – with steel and aluminium – can be recycled endlessly in a closed loop without ever losing its intrinsic properties. Going further, glass is also virtually inert, meaning that no matter what the glass packaging contained in its past life, it will always be a food-safe packaging material once recycled. These unique qualities mean that glass can easily exist in a closed-loop recycling system, and it becomes just as good the next time around.
Through convening the entire value chain, Close the Glass Loop aims to achieve the goal of a 90% collection rate for glass packaging by 2030 to help meet the EU’s circularity and climate neutrality commitments by collecting more and better glass to be recycled.
The PPWR requirements on packaging recyclability should be backed up by measures triggering investments in collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructure across Europe. The way packaging is collected directly impacts the quantity and quality of the collected materials that can be recycled. As a result, separate collection and sorting is the prerequisite to guaranteeing high-quality recycling processes and to fulfil the recyclability criteria.
So what is needed to speed up the transition to a truly circular economy for packaging?
The time is right for policymakers to:
- Include closed-loop recycling in A-E recyclability performance grades (as A and B grades), to bring more recycled packaging onto the market, and lower EPR fees as an incentive for progress.
- Be more ambitious on what closed loop recycling, high quality recycling, and recycled at scale mean. This includes bringing forward the timeline for recyclability criteria to 2030, not 2035.
- Ensure that packaging is being collected, sorted and recycled at scale in Member States representing at least 90% of the EU population (higher than the 75% in current proposal).
- Acknowledge the existence of Permanent Materials which never lose their intrinsic properties and allow for high-quality recycling within closed-loop systems – helping to cut back on use of virgin raw materials.
- Further promote separate collection by setting a mandatory 90% collection for recycling rate for all packaging materials.
With European legislation imposing increasingly stringent requirements on recycling and on-pack sustainability information, brands and retailers must ensure the genuine recyclability of their products, and effectively communicate on this. PPWR proposals represented an untapped opportunity to put recyclability front and centre.
It’s time for EU policymakers to be more daring on defining what recycling means for the packaging we all rely on, each and every day. In doing so, we can make the PPWR a catalyst to incentivise producers and the rest of the value chain to boost how much glass is collected and recycled – bringing us closer to the goal of 90% collection by 2030, and bringing down packaging waste in the EU. Because today, we don’t have time to waste.