With the plenary vote on the proposed EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) just a short week away, the European natural mineral water and soft drink industries are urging MEPs to ensure a priority access to recycled content is part of the proposal.
In Sweden and Slovakia, two countries that have already implemented priority access for the beverage industry, the measure has proven to be crucial to securing a consistent supply of recycled content, say deposit and return system (DRS) operators from those countries. It promotes closed-loop recycling where technically possible, and encourages other sectors to invest in the collection and recycling of their own products - ultimately contributing to a more circular economy.
“We see the true value of having a priority access to recycled content enshrined within the Swedish DRS,” Anna-Karin Fondberg, managing director at Sveriges Bryggerier (the Swedish Brewers). With this priority access, also our SMEs are in a position to make the necessary investments in recycled content to achieve their recycled content obligations and circularity ambitions.”
‘’A priority access right to recycled material is a fundamental component of the Slovak DRS,” added Lucia Morvai, director of external affairs and communications of the Slovak DRS Administrator. “This is absolutely necessary to enable a circular economy. SMEs, in particular, have a lot to gain from it, because they have the possibility to comply with the EU’s recycled content obligations whilst remaining competitive.’’
Considerable investments are being made by the European natural mineral waters and soft drinks industries, among others in lightweighting solutions, recyclability and efficient collection systems, such as Deposit and Return Systems. These investments are vital in order to meet the EU mandatory recycled content targets. However, under the current EU regimes, only recycled PET is authorised for use in food contact applications. It is, therefore, imperative for beverage manufacturers to secure a stable supply of rPET if they are to be able to comply with the targets set by the EU.
For this reason, the downcycling of PET beverage bottles should be discouraged, says the industry. According to a 2022 study by Eunomia and Zero Waste Europe, around 68% of the PET beverage bottles collected for recycling are downcycled into other PET product applications, such as polyester textiles, automobiles or toys, rather than collected for bottle-to-bottle recycling. This breaks the recycling loop and restricts the overall rPET supply.
Patricia Fosselard, Secretary General of Natural Mineral Waters Europe, noted that the beverage industry has already demonstrated the effectiveness of a closed-loop model. Yet such a model can only work given a consistent supply of recycled material.
“We are not asking for uniquely special treatment. The principles of a priority access right should apply universally to any sector committed to investing in closed-loop recycling,” she said.
“The European Parliament’s ENVI Committee’s support for a priority access principle was a positive step towards enabling a circular economy,” added Nicholas Hodac, director general of UNESDA. “Wider MEPs’ support is now needed to ensure that this legal mechanism is secured in the PPWR proposal.