It’s clear that if we want to protect our planet, we have no choice but to continue investing in infrastructure to help us reduce packaging pollution.
And that’s exactly the intention behind the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations (PPWR): it is a mandate to slow the steady increase in packaging waste before it is too late.
However, the regulation also presents dangerous changes that could undermine shared environmental goals, such as achieving net zero carbon emissions, and thwart progress already made towards innovative long-term solutions.
The PPWR is the most important reform remaining to be implemented before the end of the current EU mandate. This risks impacting almost everything around us, from the items and products we use every day, such as food and digital devices, to the clothes we wear, to the convenience that packaging single-use products add to our busy lives.
I write this to implore policymakers to consider the tradeoffs this policy entails and instead focus on paving the way for long-term innovation and broader collaboration on the packaging problem.
A one-size-fits-all approach could lead to practices with unintended consequences for the environment and consumers:
1. This policy undermines the reduction of carbon emissions. By imposing reuse targets on certain transportation packaging, the bill suggests banning lightweight, recyclable materials such as shrink film used for inter-company transportation of goods, and encourages a transition to cardboard materials. For us at Kraft Heinz, this would result in 47% more carbon emissions – a harmful impact we simply cannot afford to risk.
2. This policy risks impacting the health and safety of diners, while threatening to increase food waste. It suggests banning all single-use food packaging used in the hospitality industry, including packaging that is already recyclable, such as single-layer plastic sachets and mini glass jars. While there is certainly a need to reduce single-use packaging in this area (especially items that are not yet suitable for recycling), this ignores the primary function that such packaging provides to business owners: ensuring quality and the safety of their food.
Instead of blanket bans, we should come together to support innovation with the power to transform current systems into a circular economy.
The industry is already doing this: in fact, the sustainable packaging market is expected to reach nearly $470 billion in 2027 (World Economic Forum). The industry understands the severity of the problem we face and is investing to find solutions.
For example, in recent years, Kraft Heinz has worked diligently to redefine packaging standards by introducing alternative materials with significantly reduced environmental impact. We are redesigning most of our packaging to make it more recyclable, reusable and compostable, with the aim of having 100% of our packaging meet this definition by 2025.
In particular, we have worked on new materials that go beyond classic plastic films for sachets and dip pots. In collaboration with industrial partners, we found a way to create packaging from soluble algae after use in home gardens or in composts. We also worked on transitioning from multi-layer pouches to mono-material pouches made with recyclable materials and recycled plastic instead of virgin plastic.
In 2021, we launched Italy’s first fully recyclable baby food pouch, which can easily be supported by local recycling infrastructure. And, after many hours of testing, research and development, we recently introduced a 100% recyclable plastic squeeze bottle for Heinz Tomato Ketchup.
It is imperative that this legislation wholeheartedly embraces innovation as I have just shared, ensuring a regulatory framework to not only address current challenges, but also pave the way for dynamic advancements in packaging practices.
The reality is that innovation requires time, investment and an environment that encourages experimentation. Instead, let’s invest in this area and in a regulatory environment that provides the flexibility and incentives needed for such innovative thinking.
Let’s lead the way to a future where packaging does what it’s supposed to do – like keeping our food fresh or keeping us safe and healthy – while actively reducing its environmental impact.
As the PPWR is reviewed and refined, let us remember that real progress is finding common ground.
PPWR offers us the opportunity to shape the trajectory of sustainable packaging. Let’s not let this opportunity go to waste.