Copa-Cogeca, Freshfel Europe, the European Fresh Produce Association, and Europatat, the European Potato Trade Association have made a statement calling for the Regulation on Packaging and Packaging Waste to reconsider the ban on packaging for fruit and vegetables under 1.5kg and instead implement more nuanced incentives and strategies such as ecological labelling.
Although the organisations say that they support the intentions of the new regulation to cut down on packaging waste, achieve a circular economy as per the ambitions of the European Green Deal, and protect the functioning of the internal market, they have expressed their concern about its ban on single-use packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5kg, fearing that the move contradicts existing material uses and life cycle analyses.
A decrease in product shelf life and the compromising of hygiene, organoleptic quality, and traceability are listed as the potential consequences of focusing on prohibitions without implementing workable alternatives. In turn, the restrictions – said to lack thorough scientific evidence and display a disproportionate focus on the fruit and vegetable sector – could apparently increase food waste and environmental impact.
Therefore, the organisations call for the new regulation to respect the essential use of plastic in certain contexts and suggest that, instead of implementing overarching bans, it turns its attention towards cutting down on superfluous packaging; encouraging the adoption of recycled, degradable, or compostable packaging where technically and economically feasible; and improving the collection, sorting, and recycling management of packaging at a Member States level.
They also highlight the current efforts of the fruit and vegetable supply chain to transition into eco-design and environmentally-friendly materials, thus reducing the need to recycle plastics; improve its packaging management systems; and prevent food waste. These endeavours are based on science-based decision-making and should not be hindered by the introduction of new laws and restrictions, the companies say.
Organisations from across the packaging industry at large criticised the upcoming Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive when it was leaked and subsequently announced last November. Various arguments were made against its ‘arbitrary’ restrictions, and some industry players believed that vital talking points had been overlooked.
On the other hand, five Dutch retailers have implemented reusable bags for fruit and vegetable products sold in their stores, aiming to cut down on 126 million plastic bags and 10 million paper bag every year.