In its efforts to tackle the challenges related to waste, overpackaging, and sustainable production, the European Commission not only introduces additional regulations, such as the Single-use Plastics Directive, but also focuses on revising existing legislation. A milestone in the EU’s approach to respond to the environmental challenges we are facing is the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD). Together with the development of a policy framework on bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics and the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, the PPWD ranks amongst the most important policy developments for the bioplastics industry. With 48 percent of all applications represented by packaging, it is by far the largest sector for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics.   

Bioplastics need a clear, coherent, and fit for purpose regulatory environment  

Bioplastics can make significant contributions to successfully tackle the environmental challenges we all aim to overcome, but they require a transparent and reliable regulatory environment to fully tap their potential. However, so far, bioplastics lack a comprehensive regulatory EU policy approach, a fact that had also been confirmed recently by the European Commission’s “Bioeconomy Strategy Progress Report”. Therefore, it is important that the revision of the PPWD, as a cornerstone in establishing such a regulatory environment for bioplastics, fully acknowledges their role within the circular economy as well as their potential to defossilize the EU economy. All requirements outlined in the revised PPWD must go in line with the priorities of the European Green Deal, such as establishing a proper waste management infrastructure, reducing the dependency on fossil resources, and encouraging innovation in packaging.      

Driving the transition towards a low-carbon circular economy requires carbon to be regenerated using renewable resources. Therefore, the promotion of alternative feedstocks in EU packaging legislation should not be limited to recycled feedstock alone. It must also include bio-based feedstock, as this can significantly contribute to achieving climate neutrality in the EU by 2050 and to closing the carbon loop. At the same time, biodegradable and compostable plastics help in closing the material cycle as well as the biological one. In this regard, it should not be overlooked that a particular benefit of biodegradable plastic packaging is that it can help collect a larger share of the municipal kitchen waste which would otherwise end up in landfill or incineration.   

Definition of recyclable packaging   

The current exclusive focus on the recycled content should be reconsidered. Mechanical recycling alone will not be enough to end Europe’s dependency on fossil resources, nor will it stop the current trend of over-packaging and excessive waste in the EU. Therefore, the EU-wide definition of recyclable packaging as part of the PPWD revision must also include compostable packaging, which is designed to biodegrade in industrial composting (certifie