Beverage carton producers have pledged to make cartons from 100% renewable and recycled material, as well as cutting down on their plastic consumption by 2030. One of their ambitions is to become more sustainable and to help with the goal of curbing climate change. All this is part of the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment’s roadmap to 2030.
The plan includes reaching a 70% recycling rate and a 90% collection rate by the end of the decade. The Alliance wants to improve product design so that an increased circularity can be achieved. Another important task on the roadmap is reducing the missions along the value chain. The EU executive’s goal for all packaging on the EU market aims to have it all be reusable or recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030. In light of this EU executive goal, the packaging and packaging waste directive will be revised next year.
For citizens, the circular economy will provide high-quality, functional and safe products, which are efficient and affordable, last longer and are designed for reuse, repair, and high-quality recycling. A whole new range of sustainable services, product-as-service models and digital solutions will bring about a better quality of life, innovative jobs and upgraded knowledge and skills.
We believe that packaging, by 2030, should be sustainably sourced, low carbon, and recyclable and/or reusable.Annick Carpentier, director general at the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment
The EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan provides a future-oriented agenda for achieving a cleaner and more competitive Europe in co-creation with economic actors, consumers, citizens and civil society organizations. It aims at accelerating the transformational change required by the European Green Deal, while building on circular economy actions implemented since 20156. This plan will ensure that the regulatory framework is streamlined and made fit for a sustainable future, that the new opportunities from the transition are maximized, while minimizing burdens on people and businesses.
“We believe that packaging, by 2030, should be sustainably sourced, low carbon, and recyclable and/or reusable,” Annick Carpentier, director general at the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment told Euractiv. She stated that the focus should also be on the sourcing of materials.
While up to 80% of products’ environmental impacts are determined at the design phase, the linear pattern of “take-make-use- dispose” does not provide producers with sufficient incentives to make their products more circular. Many products break down too quickly, cannot be easily reused, repaired or recycled, and many are made for single use only. At the same time, the single market provides a critical mass enabling the EU to set global standards in product sustainability and to influence product design and value chain management worldwide.
EU initiatives and legislation already address to a certain extent sustainability aspects of products, either on a mandatory or voluntary basis. Notably, the Ecodesign Directive successfully regulates energy efficiency and some circularity features of energy-related products. At the same time, instruments such as the EU Ecolabel or the EU green public procurement (GPP) criteria are broader in scope but have reduced impact due to the limitations of voluntary approaches. In fact, there is no comprehensive set of requirements to ensure that all products placed on the EU market become increasingly sustainable and stand the test of circularity.
In order to make products fit for a climate-neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy, reduce waste and ensure that the performance of front-runners in sustainability progressively becomes the norm, the Commission will propose a sustainable product policy legislative initiative.
The core of this legislative initiative will be to widen the Ecodesign Directive beyond energy-related products so as to make the Ecodesign framework applicable to the broadest possible range of products and make it deliver on circularity.
One of the current difficulties is linked to the efficiency of recycling. Zero Waste Europe notes that even if beverage cartons had a recycling rate of 51% in 2019, the actual number could be a lot lower using a new EU methodology aimed at measuring recycling rates with more accuracy.
Cartons are mostly made up of wood fibers on the outside, with plastics and aluminium on the inside to ensure longer preservation; separating the two can present a challenge. According to Euractiv, the industry is trying to nonetheless find ways to recycle the aluminium and plastic from cartons.