EXPRA has been invited again to be part of the EU delegation for another Circular Economy Mission, this time to India following missions to Chile, Colombia, China and South Africa. The Circular Economy Missions are a series of high-level political and business meetings in third countries to communicate and promote sustainable and resource-efficient policies.
The missions are organised by the Directorate-General (DG) for the Environment of the European Commission and aim to build bridges between European institutions, NGOs and companies and the relevant stakeholders in those third countries, interested in the opportunities that the transition to the circular economy brings.
These initiatives have the potential of strengthening existing and creating new ties between the EU and third country institutions in the field of environment, as well as supporting green European businesses – especially SMEs- to expand their activities abroad.
The Circular Economy Missions are conceived with three clear objectives:
- To increase cooperation between the EU and third countries in the field of environmental policy. This can be achieved by signing political agreements directed at fostering the circular economy, green public procurement and innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth.
- To achieve a better understanding of the environmental challenges faced by third countries.
- To promote green solutions through business partnerships abroad. In this regard, the missions will organise matchmaking events between European and local entrepreneurs and will engage in exchange of views with targeted audiences.
This time, the delegation was led by Commissioner Vella himself and around 40 EU delegates from various industry sectors accompanied the Commissioner team of 6 people. From the EPR respective packaging sector, the WEEE Forum was represented by their president, their secretary general and a few members; also, ERP / Landbell has sent one of its managing directors. Also, Tetra Pak sent his responsible person, Mustan Lalani who is also a member of EXPRA’s Strategic Committee with obliged industry. On the Indian side, several multinational companies participated with their Indian daughter companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi etc.
EXPRA was represented by Joachim Quoden, EXPRA Managing Director. On Monday afternoon, Joachim was invited to join the sustainability team of TETRA Pak for India and South East Asia in their offices to discuss how EPR could be implemented under which conditions in India. There is already federal legislation for EPR for plastic packaging in place in India but still very general and without concrete targets. But on the other side, the first of the 29 states within India (who have additional responsibility to issue their own legislation on plastic packaging waste) have issued their own special legislation, inter alia forbidding the use of certain beverage containers. Therefore, there is a real risk that India will end up with 29 different legislative approaches which would lead to the end of the India internal market.
Therefore, Tetra Pak has started a kind of Producer Responsibility Organization (AARC) which has started to organize collection of beverage cartons together with cooperative initiatives from the informal sector in several parts of India. Parts of the PET sector have started a similar approach which is somehow leading to a competition to work with in the end the same (reliable) informal sector initiatives.
Therefore, it was common sense that on the mid-term run all these separate initiatives should join their forces to avoid such a fruitless competition but to work on a comprehensive approach in working with the informal sector, even to work on formal structures especially for the business (packaging) waste.
During Day 2 and Day 3 of the Circular Mission, the Commission had organized with their Indian counterparts a conference with several key speeches and sessions.
EXPRA’s MD had the honor to chair one of these sessions namely on “Reducing waste and Reinventing Plastics – Closing the loop” with Coca Cola India, Reliance (biggest chemical company in India), ERP and “PRO INDIA” speaking. PRO India is a for profit company founded by a former Coke employee who claims to be inspired by PRO EUROPE to set up 1 PRO for India, collecting the EPR fees from industry to pass them to the informal sector to collect plastic packaging. This initiative is interestingly not supported by obliged industry, especially not by Coke India.
In a personal meeting with the responsible person from Coke India it was outlined that, contrary, Coca Cola India is currently working with several companies to
- Industry leadership meeting to align to a common strategy to address PWM compliance and pooling of invested/planned resources for India – September 2018
- Industry sign-on Industry to build a PET self-aid organization under PACE banner – PRO to be incubated September 2018
- Public announcement of PET PRO – October 2018
But also in Coke it is understood that there will be not a comprehensive solution for PET only but that industry should in the end align for all plastic packaging and in the end for all packaging materials.
Alongside, the 2 conference days, several personal meetings between Commissioner Vella and Indian ministers were organized, every time inviting a very few EU delegates (between 3 and 10 people) to accompany Vella to these meetings. EXPRA was invited to participate in all 3 meetings, namely to meet with the Minister for Environment, Minister for Commerce & Trade and Minister for Urban planning.
After the 2 Circular Mission conference days, all participants including Commissioner Vella participated in the annual sustainability conference of India, organized by the biggest Indian trade & business association. Also during this conference, EPR was the dominating topic with a special session which concentrated on EPR for WEEE. Also, the common social side trips to old Delhi city where the streets are covered just by waste gave good opportunities to demonstrate where the real problem of marine litter is coming from.