Recommendations to policy makers
MyPack project aims to help sustainable food packaging technologies reach or expand their market. MyPack project designed a tool for optimising technologies and selecting the best market for new packaging technologies. Seven case studies were apprehended during the project. Different aspects were taken into account, including (i) optimal environmental efficiency considering the impact of food waste and packaging, optimised end-of-life scenarios (recycling, landfilling, incineration), the health of consumers preserved, (ii) the best acceptability by the consumer, and (iii) the industrial feasibility optimised. Three categories of packaging have been studied, which have different advantages from an environmental point of view: biodegradable and compostable packaging, packaging made from renewable resources, and elaborated packaging technologies, of high intrinsic environmental impact but contribute to minimising food waste. This document points out how public policies should help “sustainable” packaging technologies to access the market.
Make the differentiation between packaging technologies that are “sustainable” due to intrinsic packaging impacts (recyclable, biobased, biodegradable …) AND packaging technologies which are “sustainable” due to packaging efficiency (reduction of food waste)
A working group involving IAMB, 2B and CTCPA started to work on a simple communication on the topic of food waste and packaging efficiency. The model food products chosen were cherry tomatoes. 2B calculated for 3 packaging systems, their environmental impact as expressed in “tomato equivalents”, and IAMB designed the following communication card.
CTCPA proposed then to calculate in different situations of uses, the best packaging regarding the whole impacts, and taking into account food waste issues. Therefore, the food waste and time of consumption used in the following are not consolidated data but only examples to illustrate why packaging is “sustainable” relatively to the conditions of use (here: date of consumption).
Calculation of useful impacts depending on the date of consumption
Sensibilization of industry
The investigation of the best compromise between the intrinsic (negative) impacts of packaging and its positive impacts brought by its contribution to reducing food waste was a key point of the project, illustrated notably by the successful development of the Blow technology. Therefore, the Blow technology can be classified as an “elaborated” packaging technology.
Moreover, the application of the Blow system on salad packaging increased its packaging impacts compared to the classical salad packaging technologies. But on the other hand, this technology contributed drastically to the decrease of food waste, making the Blow technology more sustainable than the reference ones.
In order to sensibilise a wide audience to the difference between the 2 aspects of packaging sustainability, the MyPack guideline tool (http://tools.MyPackfood.eu/) includes 2 different sections related respectively to (i) (section 1) “improve packaging intrinsic environmental impact” and (ii) (section 6) “adjust the good balance between packaging efficiency and food waste minimisation”.
Include the food waste evaluation systematically in LCA approaches?
Most LCA studies performed on food packaging avoid the question of food waste evaluation (cf hard to address due to the lack of data); consequently, most LCA studies assume equal packaging performances when comparing two food packaging systems. However, as this is not the general case guidelines or normalised food packaging approaches, LCA should systematically consider the relationship between packaging properties and related food waste.
Bioplastics (biodegradable/compostable packaging and packaging made from renewable resources) are classified as “plastics” as any other fossil-based polymers used to make packaging materials – How to favor their access to the market compared to other plastics?
Legislation at EU Level
The Waste Framework Directive (2008/98) provides a mandatory separate collection of bio-waste (biodegradable garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, offices, restaurants, wholesale, canteens, caterers and retail premises comparable waste from food processing plants) by 31/12/2023. In addition, member states can collect compostable plastics (EN 13432) with bio-waste.
Concern and bottlenecks are still present despite the mandatory separate collection of bio-waste:
- No recycling target specific for bio-waste,
- Fragmentation of the legislative situation in different Member States concerning the separate collection of bio-waste as reported in D5.6 where six European countries were analysed
- No recognition in the current EU legislation of the role of compost in bringing back carbon to soil (i.e. Farm to Fork Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy, Soil Strategy, etc.),
- Lack of a mechanism for rewarding the quality and quantity of material collected (strong resistance to change in companies’ collection models),
- The single-use plastics Directive does not set a proper reduction strategy that should aim at the proper eco-design of single-use plastics also by valorising the use of compostable plastics in applications such as plates, cutlery, food containers, where – in specific contexts –can be used and improve the separate collection of food waste (for example in catering services, events, fast food restaurants) and guarantee compliance to EU law on food hygiene.
|Biowaste collection||· To provide regulations designed to promote the development of efficient systems for the collection of organic waste in order to expand the collection operations.
· To promote the use of compostable biowaste collections bags certified according to the EN13432 as a tool to increase biowaste separate waste collection quality and quantity and final compost quality.
· To organise information campaigns to provide the citizens with recommendations and guidelines on how to correctly perform the biowaste collection in households.
· Insert bans on the delivery of materials other than organic waste that are not certified according to the standard.
|Biowaste treatment plants||· To provide regulations designed to promote the construction of technologically advanced treatment plants to expand this fraction’s treatment capacity.
· To support new biowaste treatment plants enabling the production of clean compost, bioenergy and new low impact biobased products.
|Production of high-quality compost||· To provide regulations designed to encourage the production and use of high-quality compost obtained from organic waste treatment.
· To establish new rewarding schemes for farmers that can favour the use of clean compost with the final aim to bring the carbon back to the soil for its regeneration.
|Bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics (EN 13432)||· Incentivise and enable the uptake of plastics’ bio-based and/or renewable content.
· Enable the emergence of current and future applications where biodegradability and compostability will provide significant environmental benefits, including maximum recovery and separate collection of biowaste (food waste).
· Ensure that a revision of the standard on biodegradability and compostability (EN 13432) covers not only compostable plastics but also incorporates guidance on effective composting timelines of bio-waste (food waste, green waste, etc.) to guarantee the obtention of clean at the end of the cycle.
· Address the issue of biodegradability in the open environment in a way that incorporates a relative risk assessment for all materials and not only biodegradable and compostable plastics.
Currently, bioplastics represent about one percent of the annually produced plastic evaluated for more than 368 million tonnes. But as the demand is rising and with more sophisticated biopolymers, applications, and products emerging, the market for bioplastics is continuously growing and diversifying. Regarding the application sectors of biobased plastics, rigid and flexible packaging represents the most widespread sector, with around 1 million tons of bioplastics production capacity registered in 2020. However, biodegradable plastics altogether, including PLA, PHA, starch blends and others, still account for almost 60% (over 1.2 million tons) of the global bioplastics production capacities. The production of biodegradable plastics is expected to increase to 1.8 million by 2025.
The main achievements demonstrated at the industrial scale within the MYPACK project are reported below:
- Coextruded films (flexible packaging) were demonstrated and validated into fresh salad packaging. Good mechanical properties and optimal transpiration rates for CO2 and O2 can be reached by the optimised biomaterials formulations while keeping a high-water vapor permeability. Industrial optimisation of coextruded film solution has been demonstrated by reducing thickness from 30 and 22 microns.
- Coextruded films’ lamination feasibility was proven in biscuits packaging with different substrates: BOPLA – Alox, and paper.
- Prototypes of rigid packaging (HIPP heart tray) realised with compostable innovative biomaterials and rPP, in compliance with food contact regulation N102011 and a thin coating barrier (active packaging), showed good performances. The use of a mono-material with a thin barrier coating ensured food safety, and also good recyclability of the packaging has been demonstrated. The coating can also be applied in 3D forms. Nevertheless, thermal treatment cannot be applied to this packaging solution due to low resistance to high temperatures. However, promising results were obtained for the Heat resistant PLA for rigid packaging.
- Blow micro-technology insertion realised with biodegradable and compostable biomaterials provided good mechanical and permeability properties for fresh salad packaging. The device has been sealed in coextruded film (for market 1) with good results, obtaining a fully compostable packaging.
Consumers’ acceptance to purchase sustainable packaging developed in the framework of the MyPack project increased when sustainability was conveyed as biodegradable, compostable and even when the innovative packaging was properly communicated in terms of end of life benefits. As an example of how proper communication of innovation can be useful to reach the consumers: for fresh-cut vegetables, initially, the consumers required fully transparent packaging to check the freshness of the product. However, if the consumers communicated the innovation and environmental efficiency adequately, even in not fully transparent packaging, the consumers proved to be fully acceptable.
To fully achieve the market potential of MYPACK packaging solutions, overcoming regulatory and legislative bottlenecks is necessary with reference:
- To provide regulations designed to promote the development of efficient systems for collecting organic waste, including compostable packaging material certified according to standards to expand the collection operations.
- To promote the use of compostable collections bags certified according to the EN13432 as a tool to increase biowaste in separate waste collection in terms of quality, quantity and final compost quality.
- To organise awareness campaigns to provide the citizens with recommendations and guidelines on how to correctly perform the biowaste collection in households.
- Insert bans on the delivery of materials other than organic waste that are not certified according to the standard.
- To provide regulations designed to promote the construction of technologically advanced treatment plants to expand the treatment capacity of this fraction and support at the same time new biowaste treatment plants enabling the production of clean compost, bioenergy, and new low impact biobased products. In addition, to provide regulations designed to encourage the production and use of high-quality compost obtained from the treatment of organic waste, such as creating rewarding schemes for farmers that favour the use of clean compost, with the final aim to bring the carbon back to the soil for its regeneration.
- Incentivise and enable the uptake of plastics’ bio-based and/or renewable content to decouple plastic production from non-renewable resources.
- Enable the emergence of current and future applications where biodegradability and compostability will provide significant environmental benefits, including maximum recovery and separate collection of biowaste (food waste).
- Ensure that a revision of the standard on biodegradability and compostability (EN 13432) covers compostable plastics and incorporates guidance on effective composting timelines of bio-waste (food waste, green waste, etc.) to guarantee the obtention of clean compost at the end of the cycle.
- Address the issue of biodegradability in the open environment in a way that incorporates a relative risk assessment for all materials and not only biodegradable and compostable plastics.
Recommendations to policy makers are given in the following SWOTs, where specific recommendations are written in red in the “opportunities” part of the swots.