EU member states have reached an agreement on their stance regarding the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation. However, the outcome of the negotiations is disappointing. By favouring reusable packaging over recyclable ones made from renewable raw materials, the Council's proposal would tie the EU to fossil-based resources and an increasing water consumption. The most contentious issues of the regulation will now move to tripartite negotiations.

The Environmental Council of EU member states reached consensus (general approach) on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) during a meeting held on 18th December. However, achieving a unified view was far from certain as member states remained highly divided on crucial issues until the final stages of negotiation. According to Paula Lehtomäki, CEO of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, the current outcome is weak.

"From the perspective of the forest industry, the outcome achieved by the Council is disappointing. With a few exceptions, it aligns closely with the Commission's proposal. It's crucial to progress in replacing fossil-based materials with renewable and recyclable materials. This proposal jeopardizes our advancement along this path," Lehtomäki remarks.

The Finnish Forest Industries Federation supports exemptions advocated by a coalition of more than ten member states, regarding bans on specific packaging types and reuse objectives. These exceptions would be applicable when the packaging material attains high rates of collection and recycling. In the case of packaging, this would involve the use of renewable materials and efficient collection and recycling. However, the Council aims to eliminate single-use packaging from restaurants and impose reuse targets on various beverage packages sold in stores, online shopping, diverse transport packages, and both internal and external company logistics. Notably, these requirements wouldn't encompass cardboard packaging in the transportation sector. Nevertheless, the Council's proposal steers the EU towards unexplored territory.

"By favouring reusable packaging over recyclable ones made from renewable raw materials, the Council's proposal binds the EU to fossil-based resources and exacerbates increasing water consumption. Throughout the legislative process, the Finnish Forest Industries Federation has emphasized the need for reusable and recyclable packaging to complement each other rather than force very different types of packaging into the same format. This is especially crucial given the lack of information about the environmental, let alone economic, impacts of this extensive transformation," summarises Aaron Vuola, Circular Economy and Environment Manager at the Finnish Forest Industries Federation.

The Finnish Forest Industries Federation and the wider fibre packaging value chain call for the possibility to deviate from the requirements of the PPWR when high environmental and material efficiency goals are met. Expectations are high for the further processing of the regulation.

"It's important that in the upcoming tripartite negotiations, both the Parliament and particularly industry-friendly member states stick to their positions and bring realism into the final regulation. Finland's determined efforts, like the ones on the final stages of the regulation’s preparation, are now required. Hopefully, the work carried out by Finland on this matter will eventually yield results," Vuola emphasises.