Pro Carton calls for action ahead of anticipated European Commission strategy: Plastics in a Circular Economy

As the packaging and design industries await the latest announcements from the European Commission on their future strategy for plastics, Pro Carton has called for the EU to encourage the use of more sustainable packaging materials wherever possible as a replacement for plastic.

Tony Hitchin, general manager, Pro Carton — the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard manufacturers — shared his concerns and expectations for the strategy, (which will be published in December 2017).

He states: ‘I hope that the EU recognises that there are some solutions that already exist to help reduce the amount of plastic waste. The report needs to take a holistic view and not just concentrate on plastic, as part of the answer is in using different materials in the first place.

Plastic clearly has a valuable role to play in society today, but action needs to be taken to ensure that the amount of plastic packaging waste is dramatically reduced.

We know that plastic can never achieve a circular value chain as it is made from a non-renewable resource. To encourage steps towards the circular economy, the industry needs to examine where plastics are currently being utilised, and whether alternative renewable materials such as cartonboard can be applied. I believe that plastics are often being used unnecessarily when more sustainable materials could easily replace them.

To initiate change within the industry, measures should be put in place to encourage the use of more sustainable materials, whether this is through taxation of plastic packaging or providing incentives for alternative material use. Look at what happened to plastic bags!

While we are hopeful that change is possible, we cannot simply do this by looking to improve plastics and how we use and dispose of them. You need to question whether the answer is to invest more in the plastic supply chain infrastructure or to support and encourage the use of other materials.

A quick look at some of the brands that are using plastics when they could be using more sustainable materials demonstrates the vast opportunity there is to achieve quick results. We’re calling for more action from the European Commission, the industry and consumers as we face one of society’s biggest environmental challenges. We encourage brand owners to review the packaging they are using to identify whether they could make a move to more paper based packaging, such as cartons. If they are adopting a responsible attitude to their environmental obligations I hope to see action regardless of whether the EU forces their hands.’