Travel with me fast forward to 2030. By then, Europe will be a different place and the world of Europe’s soft drinks will have changed too. Our sector has decided to go well beyond existing EU targets and drive towards full circularity of its beverage packaging. Litter of beverage bottles will be almost completely reduced thanks to well-designed collection schemes in place across Europe aiming to collect at least 90% of all our beverage packaging, including aluminium cans, glass bottles and PET bottles. We will be drinking our soft drinks in fully recyclable bottles and the plastic (PET) bottles will be made from 100% recycled and/or renewable material.
That’s the world that we, UNESDA, the voice of Europe’s soft drinks producers, are already building today. With our Circular Packaging Vision 2030, launched in February 2021, we aim to support the European Commission in making circularity work to create a more circular economy for beverage packaging.
Packaging is a resource that should never become waste
It is our firm belief that beverage packaging has value and should be recyclable, collected and used as recycled content. With our Circular Packaging Vision 2030, we underline the pivotal role that beverage packaging plays in moving circularity forward. We are determined to give a new life to our packaging in order to move away from using fossil-fuel sources and accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and circular Europe, in line with the goals of the EU Green Deal. How will we achieve it?
Our journey towards full circularity is structured around three key pillars
We are striving for well-designed closed-loop collection systems to achieve our 90% collection target for plastic, aluminium and glass beverage packaging. This is going beyond the EU requirements of 90% collection for plastic bottles only by 2030. We favour the implementation of well-designed collection schemes, such as Deposit Return Systems (DRS), in markets where they don’t exist yet. We are actively working around Europe to implement such collection schemes, but are also calling for the European Commission to introduce minimum requirements for new DRS. This is the first step to boost recycling.
Higher collection leads to higher recycling. Therefore, we pledge to use only 100% recyclable packaging in aluminium cans, glass bottles and PET bottles and to also use a minimum average of 50% rPET in our plastic bottles by 2025. With this commitment, we surpass the EU target of using 25% rPET. Then, we ambition to move towards 100% recycled and/or renewable material in our PET packaging by 2030, where technically and economically feasible. In doing so, once again we go well beyond the requirements of the Single Use Plastics Directive (30% recycled plastic content in PET bottles) and are creating bottle-to-bottle closed loops. The definition itself of full circularity.
3. Reducing and Reusing
To reduce our packaging footprint, we aim to also use more refillable packaging by 2030 compared with today. For this reason, we are studying the best environmental and economic pathways to increase the use of refillable models.
A supportive regulatory framework will enable us to achieve full circularity for our beverage packaging by 2030
To help us deliver on our circular packaging commitments, we need coherence and clarity from both EU and national governments.
Firstly, we call for long-term perspective and legal certainty within the single market to allow us to make the investments needed to deliver our Circular Packaging Vision 2030. Secondly, we need a well-functioning secondary raw materials market that gives our industry priority access to sufficient high-quality food-grade rPET without compromising on safety standards and avoiding downcycling. We are encouraged to see more sectors using recycled content, but our packaging needs food-grade quality rPET and therefore it should not find its way in other products such as car bumpers.
Additionally, increased investment in waste management and recycling infrastructure is required. Our packaging has to be part of a complete system that allows it to be widely collected, recycled and/or reused. We ask for EU minimum requirements for new Deposit Return Schemes and clear definitions of recyclability. Finally, we urge for an EU framework that enables innovative recycling technologies such as enhanced recycling.
If the necessary regulatory conditions are created, in nine years’ time our industry will achieve full circularity for beverage packaging in Europe. With our Circular Packaging Vision 2030, we are strongly engaged in helping to reduce Europe’s environmental footprint and creating a more sustainable food system in Europe, as potentially our contribution to the EU Code of Conduct on responsible business and marketing practices that will be launched in the coming weeks, under the EU Farm to Fork Strategy.