Cetie’s new environmental challenges
The European Commission rightfully considers plastic packaging to be a major environmental issue.
The Commission is gradually rolling out a legislative arsenal of regulations and directives based on a complex political agenda: on the one hand, the dates on which the legislation becomes applicable are partly dictated by the legislative body’s term of office itself, expiring as it does in 2024, and on the other hand, certain decisions look more like communication initiatives than actual attempts to make a difference to ecosystems and to conserve resources. It is not always easy to strike the right balance between visible, symbolic measures and those that genuinely reduce the environmental impact of a product. However, alongside these legal obligations, the Commission has also encouraged the plastic packaging sector to develop its own standards. These standards could form the basis for certain aspects of the legislation and allow the Commission to avoid having to tackle the really fine details, while entrusting the ‘experts’ with the job of defining those details.
It was against this backdrop that the Circular Plastic Alliance
(CPA) was formed in 2019-2020 with the aim of listing all the plastic-related topics (packaging and other applications) that required standardisation. The studies it conducted resulted in a list of standards to be drafted or updated. The list has been divided up between the two main groups concerned at CEN (the European Committee for Standardization): TC 249
‘Plastics’, and TC 261
Most of these topics involve all plastic packaging and must therefore be broken down into seven sub-groups of materials (PET, HDPE, LDPE, PP, PS, PVC, expanded polystyrene) or according to application: food-grade PET or not, PET for bottles or trays, etc. Some of these topics concern Cetie members directly, such as the criteria for assessing packaging recyclability
, or the principles of packaging design-for-recycling
. As do the determination of the characteristics of the qualities of plastic waste
and the assessment of the quality of plastic recyclates
To monitor the standardisation work on these topics, the ‘SUP’ working group at Cetie has broadened its remit. This group was created in 2018 to develop a standard to address the obligation for tethered caps or single-use-plastics (from article 6 of European Directive 2019/904)
. Since this standard has now been published as EN 17665
, the group has gradually turned its attention to the other effects of the directives, regulations and standardisation work in the field of plastic bottles (mainly PET) and the related closure solutions (generally PE or PP). The members of the ‘SUP’ working group are highly representative of its field, including packaging and cap marketers and manufacturers, packaging machine manufacturers, mould designers and suppliers, and producers of resin, mainly European. The group’s stability and experience working together are real assets, holding 26 meetings in its four years of existence. It is therefore well placed to make a valuable contribution to the sections concerning PET, PE and PS of the standards to be drafted and revised.
In addition to this new activity, Cetie’s ‘SUP’ working group continues to study the impacts of the ‘tethered caps’ directive for which it was set up. It will do so firstly by publishing and updating a guide that explains certain points about the application of the directive and the associated standard. It will then monitor the decrees issued to implement the directive in the main European countries.
Other national and international regulatory matters also require monitoring and action. Primarily, the project to revise the ‘Packaging and packaging waste’ directive (Directive 94/62/EC
) dated 1994, which is now most certainly on the agenda for Cetie members and all packaging suppliers and users throughout Europe! This directive will be replaced by a regulation, and as such will be directly applicable to everyone, without requiring the country-by-country transposition of a directive. The text presented by the Commission at the end of November is only a first draft, but it clearly shows that the regulation will be based on the standards that are currently being developed at CEN.
All these matters, among others, mean that the ‘SUP’ working group’s task will be intense and complex, but it will rise to the challenges posed by the ecological transition relating to PET bottles.