More aggressive regulations mean ‘circularity or bust’ – Berry exec

Joseph Chang

07-Dec-2022

Atlanta, GEORGIA (ICIS)–Producers, converters and the entire ecosystem of plastics must be fully committed to circularity as the pace and severity of global regulations on plastics, including recycled content mandates, will be unrelenting, an executive at Berry Global said on Wednesday.

“We really need to achieve a fully circular economy for plastics. And since we have not done that, we’re going to have more and more regulations, and Europe is leading the way for us,” said Robert Flores, vice president of sustainability at packaging producer Berry Global.

Flores spoke at the ICIS Recycled Polymers Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

The EU in late November updated its Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) with new minimum recycled content requirements and bans on certain single-use plastics.

The content and the timing of the PPWD update is very meaningful as it was done at the start of the first Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the upcoming global UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution, to influence discussions, the Berry executive pointed out.

In the EU’s PPWD update, recycled content targets include 30% for contact sensitive packaging made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), 10% for non-PET such plastic packaging, 30% for single-use plastic beverage bottles and 35% other packaging.

By 2040, these percentages go up to 50% for all contact sensitive plastic packaging (except beverage bottles which go to 65%), and 65% for other plastic packaging.

“These are [extremely] aggressive,” said Flores, who noted it also bans non-recyclable packaging by 2030 and targets 80% of cups being refillable for point-of-sale beverages by 2040.

“Europe is going to figure out re-use, and when they do, it’s going to come to the rest of the world. Here in the US we complain about convenience but the European consumer is going to figure out how to make it convenient, and then export it to the rest of the world,” said Flores.

Recycled content mandates drive the demand side while extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules drive the supply side as they provide economic incentives to collect plastic waste, he pointed out.

“Regulation is increasing, whether it’s EPR, recycled content mandates, UN treaties, Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives, etc, so at this point in time, it’s circularity or bust,” said Flores.

“They’re going to keep regulating us, and either we’re going to achieve circularity or like PVC (polyvinyl chloride), by 2030, we’re going to be banned,” he added.

Focus article by Joseph Chang

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