Companies in or importing into the EU produce over 100kg of waste packaging per per person per year, according to the EU. In his speech yesterday, Executive Vice-President Timmermans’ outlined three goals for new rules which, if implemented by 2030, would potentially drastically reduce packaging and plastic waste. These rules go much further than the rules put in place in 2019 to ban single use plastic items like cutlery. They would also change how many industries operate today, from food, to logistics, restaurants to cosmetics. The three stated goals are;

  1. Reduce packaging where it “makes sense to do so” for example removing packaging for small items of food in a supermarket shelf

  2. Make packaging more re-usable, to reduce the burden on recycling, for example selling coffee in re-usable cups

  3. Make packaging more recyclable and made as much as possible from recyclable material, and with standard recycling label

President Timmermans, 30th November 2022 “The way goods are packaged can and should be done a lot better”

Planet conscious consumers generally agree with the EU, but the big question for the rule makers is around the how these rules will be set, monitored and managed? Setting a rule for reducing the quantity of packaging around a certain product (how big should an Amazon box be vs. the product inside) are possible to set but will take time. We buy cosmetics marketed in sophisticated plastic bottles that are almost possible to recycle and rarely re-used, setting new rules for these will be more difficult, but not impossible as long as the industry co-operates. Metrics on how much plastic and waste a company produces are also possible, and under development as part of the work of the TNFD, this will also give financial investors better insight into practices which are becoming less financial let alone environmentally sustainable.

You would hope these new rules also spur a new wave of innovation, as we have seen in energy production and transportation. To do so the rules also need to ensure this is permissible, hard when you are trying to future proof - where for example do the organic plant-based packaging materials produced for example by Tetra Pak sit within these rules? The company, one of many, has invested billions of Euros into packaging which both protects both the food product inside and the environment, and alone creates 200 billion packaging items a year.

The answer to all of this requires industry not obstructing or fighting the rules but helping shape and inform them, taking into account new emerging technologies, business models and consumers, and most importantly protecting the planet from the millions of tonnes of waste we produce every day.

David Craig, co-chair TNFD