New environmental laws challenge the packaging industry

Agec, climate and resilience: environmental laws provide a regulatory framework for the packaging sector, with clear medium and long-term objectives.

ALL4PACK looks back at a conference led by Valérie Herrenschmidt, Director of the Markets Division at Citeo. Read on as she describes the current challenges facing the packaging industry in the face of new environmental laws, as well as the future prospects for the main materials and solutions in order to encourage initiatives and action plans by companies.

The packaging industry has only to roll up its sleeves to meet the challenges imposed by the government, in the service of the environment.

Regulatory framework: State of the art of environmental laws

As highlighted during this workshop-conference, in two years, the regulatory agenda and citizen mobilisation for the environment have accelerated significantly. All this, with growing expectations of the role of companies in reducing the environmental impact of their production, and in particular their packaging.

Contribution, reduction, reuse, re-education, recycling, recyclability: what are the objectives of the new environmental laws to be met in the long term? What are the sectors concerned and the next deadlines to be met? Finally, how can the implementation of action plans be financed, and how can recycling-friendly sorting habits be perpetuated?

Valérie Herrenschmidt, from Citeo, began by reminding us that this is a long-standing mission for the eco-organisation. Citeo, which was created 30 years ago, has had a flagship mission since 2020: to support distribution companies, which put packaged products in the hands of consumers in France, in reducing their environmental impact.
Two main sectors are in focus: household packaging and paper.

In France, the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was created in 1992. For each product sold, producers and companies are required to follow their products and packaging to the end of their life, and thus finance and organise the management of their waste. In general, they organise themselves collectively within the framework of eco-organisations approved by the public authorities.

Citeo supports its clients and “involves them in the circular economy of their products […], encourages them to pool and optimise treatment costs […], and helps them develop R&D programs and innovations to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging and paper.”

The company does so without ignoring the importance of the role to be played by households. Representative of the eco-organisation commented: “We must mobilise the consumer to create the gesture.

In the long term, it is necessary to make them aware of the laws on the environment and to make the citizens responsible for their daily sorting gestures, which are favourable to a perennial recycling sector.

Financing and regulatory context of environmental laws

Among the environmental laws that have determined the course of action and established a regulatory framework for companies, there is no need to present the Agec Law, which set clear objectives at the beginning of 2020:

  • Future perspectives are set every five years, with quantified objectives in terms of reduction, collection and recycling. With the mission to reach the end of the distribution of single-use plastic packaging by the end of 2040
  • Firm obligations for companies, in terms of reducing the use of certain materials such as plastic, the reuse of recycled materials, the permanent objective of recycling and finally the promotion of clear and eco-responsible information for the consumer

At the same time, the Climate and Resilience Act of 2021 has reinforced the AGEC law, particularly with regard to recycling and reuse requirements.

The long-term objective, implemented in 2023, is to indicate the shelf life of products, to dedicate a surface area in each store to bulk, and to confirm a quota of 5% of reused packaging.

By 2025, new environmental laws will also govern the generalisation of selective collection outside the home, throughout the country. With long-term objectives for the plastic recycling industry that aim to put an end to single packaging by 2040.

Environmental laws and recycling go hand in hand

Environmental laws have brought in their wake a real framework for recycling, upstream and downstream of the production chain. With obligations and prohibitions that govern the actions of producers, distributors and consumers alike. But also new constraints on the recyclability of packaging.

When faced with the question “what is a recyclable packaging?”, Valérie Herrenschmidt drew up a complete table on the conditions to be fulfilled, and the stages to be respected in the great loop of recycling:

  • More than 50% of the waste collected must be recyclable to enter the recycling channels
  • Packaging must be efficiently sorted and then collected by the eco-organisations – to avoid the consequences of poor sorting and future disruptions to recycling
  • Les emballages ont l’obligation d’être recyclables à l’échelle industrielle

In terms of the obligation to reuse packaging, environmental laws have set long-term targets of 5% by 2023, and 10% of packaging by 2027.

Tthe use of plastic bottles in companies is finally being reduced, and sampling is a marketing strategy that is becoming extinct for the same reasons of unique packaging.

Environmental laws are constantly changing, and companies are receiving new information on the obligations inherent in their sector as they go along. Any new European standards take precedence over national requirements. The only certainty is that environmental laws are moving in the direction of packaging sorting and aiming at reuse or recycling.

Valérie Herrenschmidt underlined in conclusion: “The goal would be that in the long term the consumer would no longer have to ask questions, and would put all packaging except glass in the yellow bins. In short, to make sorting easier in order to perpetuate recycling.”

A fundamental work supervised by the government, led by professionals and confirmed by the sorting gestures of citizens, and the effectiveness of recycling to reintegrate packaging into the production loop.

Watch the replay of the conference below :

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