The role of packaging in meeting the objectives of the circular economy


Mark Demesmaeker, Member of the European Parliament, shares his view on the role of packaging in EU's circular economy:

Does Europe need more ambitious recycling targets to achieve the objectives of the circular economy and what are the key measures to achieve them?

We have an enormous opportunity to turn wastelands into fields of gold. Transitioning to a circular economy is essential for the EU's long-term competitiveness. Increasing our recycling capacity and performance is a crucial step to reclaiming valuable resources within the EU. I therefore strongly support more ambitious EU recycling targets.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is one of the key measures to achieve more ambitious recycling targets. At the same time, EPR is also an important driver to improve product design to ensure products can be recycled, repaired and reused. I therefore strongly believe that EPR for packaging should be mandatory. Furthermore, we need to boost separate collection, by closing the loopholes offered by the existing TEEP (“technically, environmentally and economically practicable”)-formula.  

What role do you see for packaging in reaching this ambition and what more can be done to boost recycling of all packaging? 

Optimising our recycling rates alone will not be enough to make our economy circular. We also need to tackle the more fundamental problem upfront by preventing and reducing the generation of waste. To this end, the development of smart and innovative business models remains a key challenge for the packaging sector: Is the sector genuinely committed to taking up this challenge? Appealing examples such as Splosh and SodaStream show that it is possible to deliver the same functionality to customers with a better environmental outcome. But a lot remains to be done. Finally, I strongly believe that the packaging sector also needs to increase investment in awareness raising, in particular on littering. Ecover’s Ocean Plastic Project offers an inspiring example in this regard.  


This article has been published in the ACE Newsletter Autumn 2017.