The event, organized by CITEO and supported by EXPRA aimed to gather technical experts, with the participation of the Commission and representatives of the Parliament, to share knowledge on each lever regarding how the new targets set by the PPWR would be met in an efficient and environmentally friendly way. The Conference comprised of two roundtables: “The role of EPR and complementary tools to reduce and reuse packaging” and “Improving collection and sorting and recycling through existing and innovative levers to achieve recycling targets”. Over 100 participants attended the event with speakers such as: MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, (EPP, FI), Aline Maigret, Head of Policy at Zero Waste Europe, Bertrand Swiderski, Chief Sustainability Officer at Carrefour, Valentin Fournel, Head of Ecodesign and Reuse at Citeo, Clarissa Morawski, CEO, Reloop, Antoine Stilo, EU Policy Advisor, EURIC.

In his contribution, Wolfgang Trunk, Team Leader, Circular Economy, DG ENV, spoke about the PPWR being currently discussed and highlighted the importance of looking at other aspects of PW management such as waste prevention. He noted that the proposal would create a clear, harmonised framework to move towards more circularity and resource efficiency while creating a value chain for raw materials. The proposal also foresees harmonised measures at the EU level for the reuse targets.

During the second RT, Wim Geens, Managing Director, Fost Plus commented on targets noting that they are necessary, but the bar should not be raised too high to avoid a situation where everyone ignores the targets as unrealistic. He noted that all countries should be motivated to set up a good system to recycle as much as they can but some autonomy is also needed when it comes to product-based targets as every country has unique needs. He also shared best practices from Belgium, namely recycling bottle to bottle, without a deposit returns system (DRS). He added that when speaking about the future a digital, futureproof system is needed instead of thinking as per the current DRS. The digital DRS (DDRS) will be convenient for the citizens to collect their cans and bottles to get rid of the waste.

Overall, the participants discussed various packaging-related topics, such as extended producer responsibility (EPR), DRS (current and future proof), the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), and life cycle assessment (LCA). There was general agreement about the need to take further steps towards transitioning from a linear to a circular economy and to look at waste reduction and reuse instead of only at recycling targets.

In his final summary, Francis Huysman, CEO, Valipac Belgium noted that we all have to learn from each others’ different systems and that policymakers need to find the right balance to develop a framework that has the correct level of ambition, not too low or too high. He added that the time to action is now, as climate change is here and we cannot wait 5-10 years more. New business solutions are needed rapidly and change has been very slow over the last decades, and we continue to have huge problems. He also noted that industrial& commercial packaging should not be forgotten as it is low-hanging fruit for collection and to improve its recycled content.