Europe aims to make beverage packaging fully circular by 2030

5 Mar 2021

UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe, the trade association representing the European non-alcoholic beverage sector has pledged to make beverage packaging fully-circular in Europe by 2030. The association plans to accomplish this by incentivizing the use of rPET, refillable bottles and increasing the current collection rates for recyclable packaging.

The commitment will be achieved in stages with 2025 being the first landmark date where the association hopes to have 50% of packaging incorporating rPET; by 2030, the organization wants to see PET containers made exclusively from recycled or renewable material. Additionally, the association is targeting a 90% collection rate for all beverage packaging by 2030, which is higher than current EU targets.

Europe aims to make beverage packaging fully circular by 2030

UNESDA represents 23 associations across Europe and counts companies such as Coca-Cola, Danone, PepsiCo and Nestlé among its members. While its goals are Europe-wide, the organization will have to put unequal effort into achieving them depending on which country’s compliance it is measuring. Overall, collection rates for PET bottles are high with UNESDA research showing that Germany and Denmark already collect over 90% of used PET beverage containers. In Greece though, that figure only rises to 24%.

The push to encourage more sustainable packaging does have support from some governments. In the UK, there is the EU Plastics Tax which has a proposed tax rate of £200 (US$264) per ton tax rate for plastic packaging that is imported into the UK using less than 30% recycled plastic.

In addition to recyclability, the plan to promote a circular beverage container economy includes a component that aims to boost the use of refillable packaging. While there is plenty of demand for refillable packaging that has made the existence of companies such as Loop and TerraCycle possible, refillable packaging on a large scale remains a niche solution. Nevertheless, the European trade association is committed to tackling the learning curve and cultural shift that reusable packaging will necessitate and is currently "studying the best environmental and socio-economic pathways to increasing refillable models.”

Still, it is going to require additional support and participation from companies in order to achieve these lofty goals and transition to a greener economy. But with Europe aiming to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, UNESDA's objective of promoting a sustainable circular economy will likely prove to not only achievable but to be an example for others to follow.

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