by Alexis Van Maercke, Secretary General of APEAL

“Our Circular economy agenda is all about keeping products and materials for as long as possible in the economy,” said European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius who opened and endorsed our 1st February event (watch the video) organised in partnership with Parliament Magazine. “We need to make sure the loop is closed and valuable materials do not get lost,” he added.

Indeed, a key objective of the New Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), one of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal, is for all packaging placed on the EU market to be reusable or recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030. With 84% currently recycled in Europe, steel is closer to this objective than any other primary packaging material, but is committed to achieving more.

35 participants live in Brussels, and 150 online, contributed to an engaging debate on how the steel packaging industry can help this EU vision become reality. Focusing on how we can achieve zero steel packaging to landfill, it was a privilege to be joined by so many extremely knowledgeable individuals who have been active in discussions related to the CEAP and European Green Deal.

The first high-level debate of the event focused on regulatory framework.  MEP Maria Spyraki underlined the importance of EU harmonisation in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes. Maja Desgrées du Loû – Policy Officer for Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, DG ENV at the European Commission – discussed how parallel workstreams are focusing on reducing packaging waste and overpackaging, whilst also defining recyclability.

It was noted that while successful Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes are leading to positive improvements, the continued development of new rules and different approaches and practices have led to fragmentation between and sometimes within countries. A number of excellent best practice examples however, clearly illustrated the possibilities and highlighted that our vision, which is to achieve zero steel packaging to landfill by 2025, is something we believe we can reach.

The two panel debates that followed proved to be highly engaging, stimulating much discussion and we will examine these in more detail in our next blogs.

Another key focus for the day was the launch of our new report: “How to recycle steel – Why steel packaging recycles forever”. We hope that this new report will be a reference point for the European institutions and national, regional and municipal authorities, and indeed any organisations and individuals wishing to learn more about a real and successful recycling story.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our speakers and delegates who attended in person as well as those who followed the online broadcast, and we look forward to working in partnership with you all as we strive to achieve a truly circular economy.