The Members of Flexible Packaging Europe (FPE), which represent the European flexible packaging industry, has unanimously agreed a vision on sustainability, at FPE’s first virtual conference, reinforcing the industry’s commitment to a common position on the circular economy. Jean-Paul Duquet, FPE's director of sustainability, discussed the implications with Tim Sykes.
Sustainable development has for a long while been a particular challenge and focus for the the flexible packaging industry, not least because flexible packaging is significantly comprised of plastics often highlighted as problematic. The unified voice represented by the new Sustainability Vision 2020 involves organizations from market leaders to small and medium sized specialized converters.
So is the Vision 2020 a manifesto to clarify and unify industry thinking, or primarily an articulation of these principles for external stakeholders?
"We see this as achieving both of these objectives," Jean-Paul Duquet told Packaging Europe. "Primarily it provides a strong message to external stakeholders, informing them and offering reassurance about the key sustainability advantages of flexible packaging. It also explains the key role already played by these materials and how this will continue to develop and improve in the future. It is very important to give confidence in the future strategy of the sector on this issue.
"In addition, as an association FPE represents the European flexible packaging industry, and aims to unite all of its members behind a common purpose. With more than 80 members, which includes both market leaders (so companies of international dimension with sustainability agendas already in place for many years) as well as many small and medium sized specialized converters, we discovered a strong desire to articulate a clear vision and the commitment to achieve it."
It could be said that the four goals identified in the Vision are already well established. These are: 1) designing flexible packaging for full effectiveness and minimum environmental footprint; 2) circularity for flexible packaging; 3) zero tolerance of leakage and littering into the environment; 4) and speeding up progress with cooperation. The industry has been active in each of these areas for several years already.
"What is new is the common commitment toward these goals, expressed in a united Vision," Jean-Paul Duquet remarked. "For example designing flexible packaging for full effectiveness and minimum environmental footprint has always been a very important objective. But combining this with circularity means considering future recyclability as an imperative, which is certainly a new dimension."
As we have frequently reported in Packaging Europe, there is a great deal of collaborative activity in the flexibles value chain around circular economy goals. How does Vision 2020 complement these?
"CEFLEX, for example, is a key project to help us achieve our goal to make flexible packaging circular," commented Jean-Paul Duquet. "FPE and its members were amongst those who initiated the project and we are very active in it and will continue to be so.
"Our engagement in CEFLEX is another example of the collaboration of the flexible packaging industry with the entire value chain, with the clear aim to speed up progress – another key goal of the Vision. Efforts need to continue on several fronts and the CEFLEX community of stakeholders encompasses a wider group, which includes end users and recyclers. It is important to involve these organisations in the overall efforts.
"We see the Sustainability Vision from the flexible packaging industry as strengthening the work being done by initiatives such as CEFLEX, as it adds clarity and commitment. We are all working in the same direction."
Commenting on the decision, Guido Aufdemkamp, executive director of FPE said, “I am delighted with FPE’s bold initiative to adopt this Sustainability Vision. The industry has always been aware it must play a positive role in mitigating climate change. These actions clearly demonstrate the proactive role it is taking. I am delighted the members have found common ground on this very important issue and how, therefore, the European industry is working together.”
FPE’s vision for flexible packaging in a sustainable Europe is available at vision.flexpack-europe.org.