EU focuses on reducing packaging waste

With the ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of packaging waste across Europe, the EU plans to review the current rules on waste and recycling. It’s hoped that by doing this, member states can boost their recycling rates by the year 2020.

And in particular, with the growth of online shopping, which is now responsible for around 10% of all sales, the EU believes that waste will continue to rise unless action is taken.

According to Sarah Nelen, a European Commission senior official, who is also in charge of the EU’s waste policy, the amount of packaging used in Europe is “on the increase”. For example, in 2015, the bloc produced an estimated 85 million tonnes of packaging waste in 2015.

This is up 6% from 2013. However, she did note that the “recycling of packaging is also increasing”, with 66% of packaging now being recycled in Europe on average.

But, for many online sellers, the environmental impact caused by online sales isn’t the number one priority. For instance, Maurits Bruggink, Secretary General of EMOTA, the European eCommerce association recently pointed out in an interview that “roughly four out of five webshops believe that the protection of the product is the most important criteria for using parcels.”

He went on to explain that many parcels come in standard sizes, which can result in empty space inside the packaging, which is often filled with bubble wrap or other additional packaging.

Isabel Rocher, who is head of e-commerce at manufacturer DS Smith, said: “Half of the boxes are empty – why is that?” The answer is that, with all the developments that have been made in online shopping, there’s been “no innovation” for packaging. She added: “As an industry, we need to look at how we can make this more efficient.”

According to Rocher, with the rise of millennial shoppers in the e-commerce sector, this could soon change, as this group tend to be more aware of environmental issues. She noted: “But they need help from all the industry, they need regulations.”

The new EU waste directive was introduced this year. It includes new targets for packaging, as well as a commitment that “all plastic must be re-usable and recyclable by 2030.”

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