Published Monday 8th April 2019

At the end of March, the European Parliament voted in favour of measures designed to reduce the output of single-use plastics. The ruling means that by 2021, the majority of single-use plastics will be banned under EU law, including food containers, straws and cotton buds. UK businesses will have to follow suit if any Brexit transition period enters into 2021, whilst Britain’s own ambitions in this area make a similar law probable regardless.

The environmental concerns around plastic products have been at the forefront of climate change discussions over the last few years. This action is the latest example of concrete changes to legislation that look set to transform the packaging and waste industries going forward. Businesses need to be aware of these impending changes and begin evaluating their strategies as soon as possible, or risk being left behind by modern expectations.

The New EU Plastics Strategy

The wide-ranging legislation voted in favour by 560 MEPs also outlined further measures designed to reduce the amount of plastic produced over the next decade. Along with the bans on certain products, EU member states will also be expected to have a plastic bottle collection rate of 90% by 2029. All plastic bottles must also be made of 25% recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

The EU legislation also expands on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, which is becoming increasingly popular across international governments and was evidenced in Germany’s new packaging regulations. In the case of the EU legislation, their powers are strengthened on tobacco and fishing nets, meaning that manufacturers, not fishermen, will be liable for nets lost at sea.

According to the European Commission, around 80% of all marine waste is plastics, of which 70% is affected by these changes. It is believed that these measures will save the EU €22 billion in waste management. However, it will also present concerns for the future for businesses, as many industries still rely on these products and packages.

The Outlook for Packaging

The need for alternative materials to plastic is nothing new. However, for many years suggested replacements have either been too costly to produce or not scalable for international companies. Recent developments in technology have brought viable alternatives closer to being ready for the market, whilst this clear and planned legislation will further promote research into the necessary materials.

An area that has seen the biggest progression over the last few years is bioplastics. Despite only accounting for around 1% of all plastics in circulation, according to European Bioplastics, the market for these products will grow by approximately 25% over the next five years. There are many reasons behind this, according to EuBP managing director Hasso von Pogrell:

“This trend is possible thanks to the increasing demand for sustainable products by both consumers and brands alike, stronger policy support for the bio-economy, and the continuous efforts of the bioplastics industry to develop innovative materials with improved properties and new functionalities.”

Earlier in April, BillerudKorsnäs, a renewable packaging developer, announced a joint venture looking into the development of biodegradable paper bottles. Paper is one of a growing number of potential alternatives to plastic, along with plant-based, wood and metal solutions. What is most notable about this announcement, however, is the company that they are working in partnership with – ALPLA, one of the leading plastic packaging providers with over €3.5 billion annual revenue. At the forefront of a quickly closing industry, ALPLA recognises the need to innovate their packaging solutions and prepare for the future.

With a growing demand for plastic alternatives, businesses will soon be expected to contribute to international efforts to reduce plastic waste, either through consumer pressure or government regulation. Here at ERA, our experts in waste expense management have years of experience at the top of the industry and are in a unique position to help your business plan for the future. Our specialists will work with your internal team to create a culture of cost saving that lasts, both now and into the future as these changes take effect. So, if you are looking at revolutionising your waste procedures going forward, get in contact with our team today who will be happy to help!