Incoming EU rules will double plastic packaging by 2040, Smurfit Kappa warns

Planned mandatory packaging reuse targets favour plastic over cardboard, paper packaging industry claims

Cardboard box maker Smurfit Kappa has warned that proposed amendments to incoming European Union packaging rules are “counterproductive” and risk doubling the amount of plastic in circulation across the union by 2040.

Members of European Parliament have tabled a series of amendments to the European Commission’s proposed packaging and packaging waste regulation, which was outlined last November with the aim of reducing packaging pollution and making all packaging reusable or recyclable in a what it termed an “economically viable way” by 2030.

Amendments to the commission’s proposal include introducing mandatory reuse targets for all packaging materials. They suggest a reuse target for transport packaging of at least 90 per cent by 2040.

However, the European Corrugated Packaging Association (Fefco), of which Smurfit Kappa is a member, claims that amendments on mandatory reuse targets applied to all packaging materials would increase plastic in circulation, and hit the paper packaging industry, which is focused on recycling.


Fefco said that in order meet this target, the market will be flooded by plastic packaging, for example, reusable crates. The plastics industry will need, as an intended consequence, to produce 8.1 billion additional plastic crates, which would put an additional 12 million tonnes of plastic on the market, according to Fefco.

“We support the EU regulation’s ambitions, but these amendments are counterproductive. They would impose mandatory reuse targets for packaging in too general a way which means the amount of unnecessary plastic produced by 2040 will double instead of being significantly reduced,” said Saverio Mayer, chief executive of Smurfit Kappa’s European division.

“While the world aims at reducing plastics these proposed amendments go exactly in the opposite direction.”

Dublin-based Smurfit Kappa is the largest producer of corrugated packaging, which is used to make cardboard boxes.

UK peer DS Smith has also come out strongly against the tabled amendments.

“We support the aims of the [European] Green Deal and the new legislation, but amendments that mandate reuse targets for paper and cardboard would compromise the EU corrugated cardboard industry, embed a plastic economy into the market, and hold us back on climate change,” DS Smith’s head of strategy and innovation, Alex Manistry, said late last month.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times