Brussels Inside – Steve Claus on EU policy discussions impacting on Steel for Packaging

The recent European Parliament plenary vote on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation marks a triumph for recyclability.

When it comes to discussions surrounding the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) it has sometimes been difficult to cut through the intense debate on the merits of reuse versus single use. Many have noted that never in the history of packaging regulation has a file been so heavily contested.

Since 2020, when Council embraced the ambitious goal of ensuring all packaging becomes reusable or recyclable by 2030, the EU has faced some crucial decisions.

In a groundbreaking move in November 2022, the Commission proposed the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), taking strides toward a more circular economy. Notably, it introduced recyclability performance grades, complete with defined minimum criteria, intricately linked to the eco-modulation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fees.

The European Parliament echoed this commitment, endorsing the ambitious recyclability measures first in the ENVI committee vote last October and, more recently, in the final plenary vote on 22nd November. The upcoming decision by the Council of Environmental Ministers on 18th December is poised to further shape the regulatory landscape.

Aligned with the Permanent Materials Alliance, we enthusiastically welcome these provisions promoting greater recyclability. Strengthening criteria, definitions, and targets for recyclability will bolster materials genuinely suited for recycling while guarding against the substitution of less recyclable alternatives.

As APEAL, we particularly commend the introduction of packaging recyclability performance grades. This pioneering grading system, featuring transparent criteria, is unprecedented and pivotal in ensuring packaging materials are not only designed for recycling but also effectively collected, sorted, and recycled at scale.

Recyclability performance grades mark a substantial leap toward realising a genuinely circular EU economy. These grades, blending quantitative thresholds and qualitative recyclability criteria, are poised to stimulate innovation, fuelled by the link to the eco-modulation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fees.

We look forward to the trilogue discussion with the Council and Commission and urge upon the Council of the EU to match their levels of ambition.

At the same time, we are aware that further action is required if we are to fully close the loop. Reflecting our internal vision that no steel packaging to landfill by 2025, we believe it is now essential to eliminate loopholes in the waste management process and set out an ambitious approach to phasing out the landfill of recyclable resources in the forthcoming review of the Waste Framework and Landfill directives.

Steel scrap is simply too valuable to end up in landfill.