EU to ban thousands of chemicals. Is PVC also facing an exodus?

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EU to ban thousands of chemicals. Is PVC also facing an exodus?

Thomas Reiner | 06.05.2022

Are thousands of chemicals in Europe soon facing the end? The EU is planning new restrictions that will blacklist a host of potentially harmful substances. Up to 12,000 chemicals, including so-called “forever chemicals” with long degradation times, could fall within the scope of the proposal, which the EU has published in its “roadmap for restrictions.” Numerous substances of importance to the packaging industry are also affected. The regulations come unchecked and blow by blow. The issue of the long degradability of chemicals could have serious implications for plastics.


 

Even for activists, the planned restrictions under the roadmap published by the EU on April 25, 2022, are the strictest ever. According to industry associations, up to 12,000 substances could ultimately fall within the scope of the new proposal. According to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the plan would become the “world’s largest ban on toxic chemicals.”

 

Background

In early 2022, scientists rang alarm bells. Chemical pollution of the environment had crossed a “planetary threshold.” The collapse of the global ecosystem was threatening.

According to the scientists, the denounced “synthetic pollution” poses catastrophic dangers. They range from a decline in human fertility rates to the extinction of whale species and two million deaths worldwide each year.

 

The plans of the EU

The EU’s “Roadmap for Restrictions,” published on April 25, is meant to be a first step toward changing the situation and addressing the threats. For the time being, existing laws are to be used for this purpose. With their help, toxic substances associated with cancer, hormonal disorders, reproductive disorders, obesity, diabetes and other diseases are to be banned. Among other things, the focus is on so-called “forever chemicals,” substances that take a very long time to break down naturally.

The main new aspect of the regulators’ plans is that, for the first time, entire classes of chemical substances are to be banned. For example, bisphenols, PVC plastics, PFAs (perfluoroalkoxy polymers) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) would be affected. A wide range of very different products such as flame retardants, cosmetics, cleaning agents, lubricants, pesticides, disposable diapers and granules for children’s playgrounds would then have a major problem.

 

Consequences for the packaging industry

But the packaging industry will also have to adjust to the new realities. This is because some of the substances are also found in materials that come into contact with food. And especially in the pharmaceutical sector, PVC plastics are currently still used in many relevant applications. But the comprehensive list of the roadmap also brings paints and adhesives into focus.

 

Plans for the future – and REACH

According to the EU’s plans, the substances and materials identified (for the time being) are to be placed on a “continuous list” and subsequently used by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) as the basis for a prescribed restriction. The plan is to regularly review and update this list. A comprehensive and fundamental revision of the European Chemicals Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is then planned for 2027.

 

What is certain

What is already certain is that the issue of the long-term degradability of certain chemicals will not disappear from the agenda. The new focus on “forever chemicals” may have a massive impact on plastics – reaching the packaging industry on a larger scale.

We see that environmental regulations continue to grow unchecked and on a massive scale. The EU is acting quickly, concretely and consistently. The number of construction sites for our industry will continue to increase. It will be all the more important not to patch things up, but to approach the future with full concentration and a clear strategy.

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“Unpacked” closes loops: disposable deposit cups made from recycled material at Kaufland

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“Unpacked” closes loops: disposable deposit cups made from recycled material at Kaufland

Thomas Reiner | 19.04.2022

The German supermarket chain Kaufland, part of the Schwarz Group, is expanding its “unpacked” stations at the POS, introduced in 2021, to include deposit cups made of 50 percent recycled material. The disposable containers can be returned to Kaufland by consumers as empties after use and then enter the Schwarz Group’s own recycling cycle. The new solution is exciting. It relies on the use of recycled material and at the same time ensures reuse via the deposit system. “Unpacked” will continue to grow. This is due not least to pressure from legislators.


 

The Schwarz Group is a global big player in the retail sector. In addition to the supermarket chain Kaufland and the discounter Lidl, however, the company also includes the waste disposal and environmental service provider PreZero.

 

Unpacked at Kaufland

As part of its “REset Plastic” plastic strategy, Kaufland launched test “Unpacked Stations” in selected stores last year. To date, these stations have been installed in a total of eight stores. According to the company, the “unpacked” range has been well received.

  • The “unpacked” range includes around 40 staple foods such as rice, pasta, bulgur and quinoa, as well as chocolate-coated nuts, dried fruit and muesli.
  • Shoppers can make use of the containers on offer or fill the goods into their own containers that they have brought with them.
  • By offering unpacked goods, Kaufland says it is pursuing the goal of reducing both plastic and food waste in private households.

 

The disposable deposit cups

  • The cups and their lids are made of 50 percent recycled PET.
  • They have a capacity of 600 millilitres.
  • The deposit value is 0.25 euros and is refunded when returned as empties to Kaufland stores.
  • After being returned, the disposable cups are sent for recycling by PreZero, a waste management company belonging to the Schwarz Group, where they are reused.

 

REset Plastic at Kaufland

The latest campaign is part of the Schwarz Group’s REset Plastic program. As part of this strategy, the company has set itself the goal of using less plastic and closing loops at the same time.

Kaufland had already taken steps in the direction formulated in previous years. These include

  • plastic-reduced packaging,
  • the discontinuation of disposable carrier bags,
  • the use of recycled PET bottles,
  • the introduction of the fresh bag for fruit and vegetables, and
  • the introduction of a reusable lid for dairy products.

 

In this way, unpacked becomes a well-rounded solution.

Kaufland’s latest cup example shows how “unpacked” can be approached in a sensible way. On the one hand, this involves using recyclates as extensively as possible. The model gets the right “kick” by integrating the cups into a deposit system. It is tried and tested and works better than recycling via collection by household systems. The fact that Kaufland can ensure material recycling via its “own disposal company” also makes the solution completely rounded off from a corporate point of view.

 

Outlook

We will see more “unpacked”. Not least because the model is also attracting more and more attention from regulators. The pressure from corresponding legislation will increase. The industry is well advised to proactively work out solutions here.

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Müller & Waitrose get to grips with color

Photo source: Roberto Sorin – Unsplash

Müller & Waitrose get to grips with color

Thomas Reiner | 05.04.2022

Blue, green and red are a thing of the past: In collaboration with UK supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners, Alois Müller Dairy, part of German food group Theo Müller, will replace all colored caps on its HDPE milk bottles with clear variants from April 2022. According to the company, the seemingly small innovation will mean that the closures can also be recycled for food-grade applications. The approach is consistent and logical. And it shows that retailers and brand owners are continuing to ramp up the momentum toward a circular economy – with a direct impact on the packaging value chain.


 

The colors used in the plastic are being tackled in the spirit of the circular economy. Following a successful internal trial, Müller and Waitrose will test the new clear closures in all of the retailer’s 331 stores from April 4-30, 2022.

 

Recycling upgrade in quality and quantity

The background to the switch to colorless closures is that the colored variants cannot currently be recycled into food-grade packaging, according to Müller and Waitrose. This is all the more serious as the HDPE bottle (without closure) can in itself be fully recycled in a food-grade manner.

The introduction of clear closures now preserves the closure material for reuse in the food sector. According to the company, the availability of the scarce rHDPE on the market can increase by 1560 tons per year as a result of the color waiver and help to reduce dependence on virgin plastic.

Another benefit of the innovation is that Müller and Waitrose can retain the HDPE bottles they currently use and still upgrade their milk packaging solution to a fully food-grade closed-loop solution.

 

Consumer survey in advance

The Alois Müller dairy is best known for its Müllermilch brand. In the run-up to the changes now being implemented, the company had conducted a survey to determine consumer attitudes toward colorless capping.

The result:

  • Slightly more than half of customers look at the color of milk caps when selecting their milk in the store to find the product they want (and are used to). Other orientation aids include colored labels, location in the refrigerated section or signage at the POS.
  • Eight out of ten shoppers said they would prefer a milk bottle with a clear, food-grade recyclable cap over a colored cap that is not appropriately recyclable.

Waitrose

The joint action with Müller is not Waitrose & Partners’ only move on sustainability. The company also recently joined the “world’s largest” refill coalition of retailers, whose members include companies such as Marks & Spencer’s, Morrisons, Ocado and CHEP. The group intends to work together to develop a scalable end-to-end refill solution for staple foods such as rice and pasta. It is intended to be usable at the POS, as well as for bulk home delivery.

 

Packaging needs solutions

Retailers and brand owners are moving very dynamically toward a circular economy. The pace and intensity are growing day by day. The pressure on the packaging value chain is growing accordingly. It must find solutions that pave the way for its customers.

It’s not always about the next new material or the really big thing. Even seemingly small things like not using color on plastic closures can make a difference. As in this case, making it possible to recycle the entire packaging for food applications.

Thinking – and acting – consistently pays off!

 

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Plastic waste and circular economy: The United Nations increase the pressure

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Plastic waste and circular economy: The United Nations increase the pressure

Thomas Reiner | 31.03.2022

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) decided in early March in Nairobi to set mandatory targets in the fight against plastic waste. According to the roadmap, the legally binding agreement should come into force by the end of 2024 at the latest and cover the full lifecycle of plastic. The move makes it clear that circular economy has become a global issue. Pressure from regulators is continuously increasing – and the packaging value chain is feeling it.


 

The UN Environment Program resolution passed at the UNEA Assembly is already considered one of the most important environmental agreements since the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

Details of the planned agreement

Delegations in Nairobi voted unanimously to establish a so-called intergovernmental negotiating committee to negotiate the international agreement. The new framework is expected to become legally binding by the end of 2024 at the latest.

The UN Environment Assembly negotiations are scheduled to start in the second half of 2022. Participation is open to all UN member states.

In detail, the following was determined:

  • The full life cycle of plastics will be scrutinized. This includes production, use, disposal in the trash or reuse.
  • Negotiations may establish numerical ceilings and binding voluntary measures against plastic waste on land and in the sea.
  • The mandate also includes control and assistance measures for poorer countries.

 

Background

According to the Organization for Economic and Cooperation (OECD), only ten percent of the plastic produced worldwide is currently recycled.  Twenty-two percent end up in wild landfills or are disposed of unprotected in the environment.

 

Global awareness

Awareness of the problem is no longer limited to highly developed nations. Regulators and mostly young activists in Asian and African countries are also taking up the issue and exerting pressure. It is there that the problems identified are particularly virulent. And it is here that a move toward a circular economy is particularly urgent. It is no coincidence that there was loud applause in the UNEA meeting room after the resolution was passed.

German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke celebrated the fact that the international community had agreed for the first time to work together to combat “plastic litter.” The fact that the undesirable input of plastic into nature is becoming the starting point for the establishment of a circular economy follows established patterns and is not coincidental. The many environmental problems of a throwaway society for products and resources become particularly clear with plastic.

 

The pressure is also increasing on a broad scale

Regulations toward a circular economy are no longer taking place only at individual, local or national levels. They have become a global issue. And they will remain on the agenda globally.

The recent UNEA decision clearly shows that regulatory pressure continues to increase not only at the top, but also across the board. Analogously, the pressure on the packaging value chain is also increasing. It is becoming stronger and more comprehensive. Anyone in our industry who still turns a blind eye to this will soon be beyond help.

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Paperization with a new premiere: Mentos Pure Fresh Gum now in paper

Photo source: JJ Ying – Unsplash

 

Paperization with a new premiere: Mentos Pure Fresh Gum now in paper

Thomas Reiner | 25.03.2022

A premiere in chewing gum: the Italian-Dutch confectionery group Perfetti Van Melle now offers its Mentos Pore Fresh Gum in a largely recyclable bottle made of 90 percent paper. Used only at Walmart in the U.S. for now, the new packaging stands as further witness to the unbroken momentum in substituting paper for plastic. Although the extent of “paperization” varies around the world, it has become a global trend that is gaining momentum unabated for the time being.


 

Mentos Pore Fresh Gum is the first product in the chewing gum category from a major global confectionery manufacturer to be sold in packaging made largely of paper.

The new packaging is expected to hit shelves in the first half of 2022. It will start with Walmart, which will offer the chewing gum in the paper bottle in about 3.000 stores and through its online store.

 

The packaging solution

  • The newly launched bottle is made of 90 percent paper.
  • It is certified recyclable and displays instructions for consumers on its surface for proper disposal.
  • The paper bottle can be disposed of through locally available collection systems.
  • The new packaging solution was presented by Perfetti Van Melle at the “Sweets & Snacks Expo” and won the award for the most innovative new product 2021 in the chewing gum and mints category.

 

Paperization goes global.

The trend toward substituting paper for plastic continues unabated and has long since become a global issue. The development continues to be dynamic and is conquering new areas of application segment by segment.

The dynamics in the value chain and the pressure from all stakeholders – whether brand owners, regulation, consumers, NGOs, employees, investors or retailers – towards the circular economy continue to increase. As long as the loop is not closed, we will continue to witness developments like at Mentos more and more often.

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