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Why we need to understand the PPWR: A view from SCA Containerboard

The EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) is the biggest overhaul of European packaging rules in years. Currently under review by the European Parliament and Council, launched in November 2022, it aims to reduce Europe’s packaging waste and promote reusable alternatives. It includes proposals for packaging reduction targets for Member States and strict reusable and refill targets for in-store dining and takeaway services.

Why we need to understand the PPWR: A view from SCA Containerboard

We are currently conducting a customer study for SCA Containerboard on the PPWR. Mikael Frölander, VP Sales & Marketing explains why:

“The principles of the legislation are well intentioned, but in its current form, the PPWR could have unintended consequences for the corrugated industry, among others, and we are concerned. Not least is the emphasis on reusable packaging at the expense of other environmentally-friendly options such as single-use paper packaging. We’d like to see a revision to prioritise the use of renewable and recyclable single-use paper packaging. Transport packaging has been exempted as it is mainly corrugated and easy to recycle (subject to ratification by the Parliament), but much remains controversial.


If we are to prioritise reusable above single-use, we will need new packaging designs to withstand multiple use with added strength from virgin fibre, but that goes against the EU mission for more recycled content. We know consumers automatically assume a recycled product must be a more environmentally-friendly choice, even when it isn’t, and they don’t often realise a product cannot be recycled indefinitely without an injection of virgin fibre. We need acceptance of both recycled and virgin fibre.


We sit a good distance away from the end consumer, so we start with our immediate customers, the box makers. Together with Opticom, we hope to gain some insight into their understanding of the PPWR and its possible impact, which in turn will help us make better decisions when it comes to planning our future strategy. How do they and their customers, the brand owners, see sustainability? Are their brand owners aware, for example, that reusable packaging is not necessarily a more sustainable choice than single-use packaging? That reusable plastic packaging generates more emissions through the washing and returning of packaging, resulting in an increase in the release of CO2 and more freshwater use? Do they know that testliner production has five times higher emissions than kraftliner? Do the brand owners know, and if they do, do they care?


Surveys like this one help us plan for the future. We often have a limited view of the wider market as our sales team talks mainly to procurement who are told from their own sales teams what to buy. Few discussions will involve sustainability directors, designers or brand owners. But when faced with the challenge of sweeping new legislation such as the PPWR, we need to gather as broad a picture as possible.”



Food for thought: If the PPWR is implemented in current form:

  • It will likely hit small hospitality businesses hardest with upfront costs for industrial-scale washing infrastructure and expensive reusable packaging. According to the National Syndicate for Food and Quick-Service Restauration (SNARR), this could be as much as €100,000 per restaurant – crippling for many.

  • A focus solely on reusables runs the risk of overlooking the potential for developing sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives in paper packaging.

  • Shifting to reusable packaging will create a market influx of low-priced plastic imports from outside the EU.

  • And then there’s water use, resource efficiency, food safety, LCA comparisons, recycling systems (or lack of), cost, supply chain disruption…


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