As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of packaging, it’s crucial to stay informed about regulatory changes that can influence our industry. PPWR, or Plastic Packaging Waste Regulation, is one such regulation that it is important to be aware of.
Important objectives of the PPWR are to ensure that all packaging is reusable or recyclable in an economically feasible way by 2030, to boost uptake of recycled content, to tackle over-packaging and to reduce packaging waste.
Based on these objectives, it’s obvious that there will be implications for shrink film packaging as well. In this article on our website, we try to share our current understanding of these potential implications.
Author: Theo Schilder, Director of Business Development at KIVO Flexible Plastics.
Firstly, it’s important to note that the PPWR is still a work in progress. However, since the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI) recently voted on proposed amendments to the draft regulation introduced by the EC in November 2022, we have a good idea of the direction the final legislation will take.
One of the most noticeable measures, is the planned ban on shrink-wrap for multi-packs sold to consumers. The exact proposed text for the restriction now states: “Plastic packaging used at the point of sale to group goods sold in bottles, cans, tins, pots, tubs, and packets designed as convenience packaging to enable or encourage consumers to purchase more than one product. This excludes grouped packaging necessary to facilitate handling in business-to business distribution”. In other words, as of 31 December 2027 (as read in the amendment to Article 22), plastic shrink-wrap cannot longer be applied for multi-packs sold to consumers.
Especially in Western developed countries where such packaging is mostly disposed off and subsequently recycled in the correct way, we believe (and studies show) that such a ban will probably have a net negative effect to the environment. Unfortunately, such objections have not seen sufficient support in the EP.
The shrink-wrap packaging that will be allowed, is the packaging that is necessary to facilitate handling in B2B distribution. This is still a large, mainly unprinted, proportion of total current volume. In some markets, such as the UK, there are already (tax) measures in place to stimulate the use of recycled content in plastic packaging. This is not yet the same as a regulation and with PPWR that will change. According to the PPWR proposal, from 1st January 2030 non contact-sensitive packaging (such as shrink-wrap for bottles, cans, etc.) should contain a minimum of 35% Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) content. This % should increase to 65% towards 1st January 2040. When the right quality PCR granulate is available, the 35% target is now already feasible. Even without the need to further increase thickness as a compensating measure. We have successful use cases that demonstrates this. Growth towards 65% will be a bigger challenge, both in terms of quality and quantity of available PCR. Together with our customers we will innovate further to succeed in that.
It is likely that possibilities will be assessed in the coming 2 years whether also Biobased plastic feedstock should be allowed. The mentioned targets (35% and 65%) could then be a mix of PCR and biobased (max 50/50). This would definitely overcome some of the challenges with quality. It does, however, come with its own challenges as well. With current price differences, for example, it will increase packaging costs significantly. Also availability is still relatively low.
In terms of recyclability, we do not foresee any challenges at the moment. On the contrary; based on our insights, LDPE Shrink-wrap packaging is already being recycled at scale. Demand for such scrap is high and under the right conditions closed loops can be setup. Together with SCG/KRAS Recycling and REKS LLC we are already managing stable flows of plastic waste (up to 18Kton annually) that is collected from retail chains and contains a large proportion of used B2B shrink-wrap packaging. This is separated, washed and recycled into rLDPE Natural PCR and subsequently used in the production (blown-film extrusion) of new shrinkfilm with up to 50% PCR.
When it comes to shrink-wrap, especially for B2B distribution, it should be a no-brainer to already explore possibilities for maximizing PCR content, whilst maintaining the same thickness and runability. It will help the environment, it can already bring a financial advantage in some markets (such as Spain and UK) where tax measures are already in place and it will help you to make your packaging PPWR-proof.
Stay tuned for more updates on this topic as we explore the dynamic world packaging regulations.
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