Enforceable rules on the design for circularity must be the guiding principle for all future packaging legislation.
At the Metal Packaging Europe “Ahead of the Pack” event held in Brussels on 23 January, representatives of the packaging value chain, academia, civil society and the European institutions debated how circularity in the packaging loop can be consolidated and accelerated. Participants highlighted the implications of the paradigm shift for the design of packaging across the sector: Light-weighting irrespective of recycling characteristics has been a dominant design feature for decades, but is now being replaced by design for recycling.
Maja Desgrées du Loú, Policy Officer at the European Commission noted: “We are currently undertaking studies on the Essential Requirements and fee modulation to align both with circular economy thinking. Closing material loops and working on packaging design for recycling will become ever more important in the future.”
Gordon Shade, Chief Executive Officer of Metal Packaging Europe, emphasised that “The metal packaging industry calls for design for circularity to be the reference point in the revision of the Essential Requirements. This is key to keeping valuable materials in the loop, which otherwise would be lost.”
Gloria Gabellini, Senior Manager EU Public Policy, Government Affairs & Communications of PepsiCo added: “Metal cans have been a fundamental part of PepsiCo’s beverage packaging mix for many decades, bringing advantages, such as relative ease of recyclability that supports our 2025 goal to strive to design 100% of our packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.”
Participants also discussed potential stumbling blocks on the way to circular packaging. Key focal points, which require to be addressed quickly, include the following:
Extended Producer Responsibility should set incentives for circularity based on real end-of-life costs.
Life-Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and their methodology need to be adapted to reflect circular economy thinking.
These matters will be the subject of workshops organised by Metal Packaging Europe as part of its commitment towards reinforcing the strengths of metal packaging. Gordon Shade commented: “Product design and the subsequent recycling have always been a strength for the metal packaging sector. We will continue to work with our partners in industry, society and policy-makers to put in place an even more rigorous framework, which will reflect our ambitions.”