Why priority access to recyclates should be secured in the proposed EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation

With just one week left until the plenary vote on the proposed EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), the European natural mineral water and soft drink industries call on all MEPs to secure a priority access right to recyclates in the PPWR proposal.

Their call is supported by deposit and return system (DRS) operators from Sweden and Slovakia, where a priority access principle is already implemented.

Priority access brings several benefits. It promotes closed-loop recycling where technically possible, and it provides manufacturers with reliable access to recycled materials, enabling them to achieve the EU mandatory recycled content targets. It also encourages other sectors to invest in the collection and recycling of their own products, ultimately contributing to a more circular economy.

Anna-Karin Fondberg, Managing Director at Sveriges Bryggerier/ The Swedish Brewers, comments: “We see the true value of having a priority access to recycled content enshrined within the Swedish DRS. This has proven to be a crucial element to secure a consistent supply of recycled content, enabling the industry to meet the EU’s recycled content targets. With this priority access, also our SMEs are in a position to make the necessary investments in recycled content to achieve their recycled content obligations and circularity ambitions.”

Lucia Morvai, Director of External Affairs and Communications of the Slovak DRS Administrator, notes: ‘’A priority access right to recycled material is a fundamental component of the Slovak DRS. This is absolutely necessary to enable a circular economy. It provides the industry with sufficient access to recycled materials to meet the EU’s recycled content targets. SMEs, in particular, have a lot to gain from it, because they have the possibility to comply with the EU’s recycled content obligations, whilst remaining competitive.’’

Patricia Fosselard, Secretary General of Natural Mineral Waters Europe, states: “The beverage industry has demonstrated the effectiveness of a closed-loop model, but a consistent supply of recycled material is a critical necessity to incentivise investment, realise the full potential of this model, and boost resource efficiency. We are not asking for uniquely special treatment. The principles of a priority access right should apply universally to any sector committed to investing in closed-loop recycling.’’

Nicholas Hodac, Director General of UNESDA, adds: “The European Parliament’s ENVI Committee’s support for a priority access principle was a positive step towards enabling a circular economy. Wider MEPs’ support is now needed to ensure that this legal mechanism is secured in the PPWR proposal. We already know that a priority access right works. It is implemented in Sweden and Slovakia, authorised by national authorities, and it has been approved under Austrian law and will be integrated into its DRS that is soon to be launched.’’


Background information

The European natural mineral waters and soft drinks industries have been enhancing packaging material efficiency, and investing in lightweighting solutions, recyclability and efficient collection systems, such as Deposit and Return Systems (DRS). These investments are vital to helping the industries to meet the EU mandatory recycled content targets.

Under the current EU regimes for recycled plastic in food contact, only recycled PET (rPET) is authorised. Therefore, securing a stable supply of rPET for beverage manufacturers is essential to meet EU-mandated recycled content targets. However, it has been challenging to secure it due to the downcycling of PET beverage bottles. According to a 2022 study by Eunomia and Zero Waste Europe, a substantial portion of PET beverage bottles collected for recycling (approximately 68%) is downcycled into other PET product applications, such as polyester textiles, automobiles or toys, from which they cannot be recycled back into rPET. This breaks the recycling loop and restricts the overall rPET supply. The resultant price volatility can also seriously delay investments in recycling, particularly on the part of SMEs.

A priority access right will also drive innovation as it will encourage recyclers to collaborate with partner sectors to develop new closed-loop systems, each with efficient collection and a stable supply of recycled material.

Note to Editors

About NMWE

Natural Mineral Waters Europe has been the voice of natural mineral water and spring water since 1953, and today represents more than 500 producers. The sector provides European consumers with healthy, natural and high-quality hydration. Pioneers in sustainable management, our members have a long tradition of working in partnership with local communities to safeguard the environment around water resources. Our mission extends to achieving full circularity for all packaging. www.naturalmineralwaterseurope.org/

About UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe

Established in 1958, UNESDA – Soft Drinks Europe is the Brussels-based trade association representing the non-alcoholic beverages sector. Its membership comprises 10 companies and 25 national associations from across Europe. UNESDA members are involved in the production and/or distribution  of a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages, including still drinks, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, iced teas, flavoured waters and sports drinks. www.unesda.eu


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