Single Use Plastics Directive against paper products


Massimo Medugno

Paper industry represent the forest fibre-based packaging value chain and it invests to offer sustainable and recyclable packaging solutions from European growing forests. Companies invest every year in Europe €5.5bn, twice more than an usual investiment in the manufacturing industries. Moreover the industry has supported the objective of the Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD), which can be a positive tool for to reduce the use of the common single use plastic products that demages the beaches and the ocean.

So the purpose for now is paying attention to the unintended consequences of the Directive and drafting a guidance on how to implement the SUPD. According to the draft guidance, the Directive will be also applied to all paper and board products that contain a minor amounts of polymers in their packagings for the consumers’ safety. For this reason the concern now could be that this draft definition of plastic goes against the original purpose of the Directive with highly damaging consequences, including achievement of the goals set in the European Green Deal.

The European Commission itself recognises forest fibre-based packaging as an important substitute for plastic packaging, but actually some polymers are required to provide functionality and consumer safety. So classyfing paper and board products as plastic would hinder the plastic substitution and would have consequences for the future innovation and the economic growth sustained in the sector and obviously can make a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis even more difficult. The unintended consequences could be solved by setting a maximum threshold for the amount of polymer allowed in products covered by the Directive; some member states are already moving in this direction, for example France has proposed a threshold of 10%-15%.

As many member states plan to use the SUPD definitions widely in their national legislation, such as fees for extended producer responsibility schemes and plastic tax, the impact of the guidance document is expected to go much wider than the actual SUPD.

However paper industry strongly believe that the forest fibre-based packaging value chain can offer solutions  and there is the hope that it will be able to support  the request and work proactively towards a solution that recognises the benefits of forest fibre-based packaging.