The European Union is setting ambitious targets to increase sustainability efforts dramatically. By 2024 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes will extend beyond electronic waste to all packaging for every member country. The recycling targets for plastic packaging will almost double from 22.5% to 50% by 2025. And by 2030, there is a target to recycle 65% of municipal waste and 75% of packaging waste.
Rising targets mean more rules
The common goal of EPR schemes throughout Europe is to establish a circular economy. However, it is currently up to each country to place rules and regulations on the type of acceptable packaging and determine how fees are modulated. With lofty recycling deadlines approaching as early as 2025, legislation will need to take swift action on imposing even stricter EPR schemes. For brands, this means the total recyclability of their packaging will be key to avoid increasing fees.
Eco-design for the future
Currently, only a few countries offer a recycling model that provides financial incentives for environmentally friendly design practices, known as eco-design. Countries like Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Spain are leading the way in how eco-modulation can incentivize a brand’s design process.
As part of this eco-design model, decoration is one of the critical factors determining the fee bracket of a product. Unfortunately, labels on PET packaging are often overlooked during the design process. Approved decoration technology that features labels with wash-off adhesive or floatable sleeves can play an essential role in enabling recycling and provide a financial advantage to brands.
The Dutch example
Let’s look at The Netherlands as a model for how EPR schemes can incentivize design for recycling through the differentiation of fees.
For a brand to put a product on the market in The Netherlands, they must pay a packaging fee. They rely on the Institute for Sustainable Packaging (KIDV) to provide knowledge and tools that help determine how their packaging choices comply with EPR criteria. With The Recycle Check online, they can estimate the rates they will need to pay to the Packaging Waste Fund (Afvalfonds Verpakkingen).
In the chart below, you can see the case of two PET packages, a 350-500ml beverage bottle, and a 500ml personal care bottle. Typically HPC packages are thicker hence they have a higher weight. However in both instances, the packaging fee using an approved label, for example CleanFlake™, is ± 40% lower than using a standard label. Thus, CleanFlake is financially beneficial while also bringing more recycled PET back into the supply chain.