Foodservice Footprint cups2 The Friday Digest: Stumbling EPR, slim-line PPWR and a shun for UK cup takebacks Out of Home News Analysis  news-story-top news-email-top

The Friday Digest: Stumbling EPR, slim-line PPWR and a shun for UK cup takebacks

Last week’s roundup led with the amount of poo created on farms, so this week we thought we’d start with some plastic pollution stats before getting to the nitty gritty of new packaging regulations.

Branded discontent. Data from a 5-year (2018–2022), worldwide (84 countries) programme to identify brands found on plastic items in the environment showed that 50% were unbranded and 50% were branded. The top brands were the usual suspects. You know that. We know that. They know that. But if these brands don’t like being called out, maybe they should go unbranded. And if they are happy to do that, then they’d be happy with unbranded, standardised reuse systems at scale, right?

Cut it out. The authors of the paper, published in Science Advances, noted that the “strong linear relationship between plastic production and branded plastic pollution […] suggests that reduced plastic production is a primary solution to curb plastic pollution”. Co-author Win Cowger, research director at the Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research, said “despite all the things big brands say they are doing, we see no positive impact from their efforts”. Having said that, the results also offer hope “that fast-moving consumer goods companies reducing their plastic production and shifting towards more durable and reusable products would have a strong positive impact on the environment”.

Production cap. Some companies are calling for a production cap on plastic as part of the global plastic treaty. The fourth (and penultimate) talks in Canada this month left such a cap hanging by a thread. The concept of plastic offsets also appears to have resurfaced. Talk is of “high integrity credits” but there are already reports of projects generating credits from burning plastic. Danone has also just been forced to suspend its scheme following allegations that a recycling facility was built illegally close to a Balinese community and without proper consultation, an Unearthed investigation found. 

New rules. Companies producing plastic and other single-use packaging remain in the spotlight. However, the regulatory landscape offers little cheer. 

Single-use paper rules scrapped. The EU packaging and packaging waste directive (PPWR) was finally approved on April 24. Measures to promote reusable packaging in the foodservice and hospitality sector or to reduce the overall volume of single-use packaging have been “mutilated”, Sergio Baffoni, campaigner at the Environmental Paper Network, told us. The regulation could actually result in more waste, not less, he said.

Chipping away. McDonald’s has led industry efforts to water down targets on reusable packaging for the foodservice and hospitality sector. The likes of the European Paper Packaging Alliance called the final rules a victory for “technological neutrality” and “respect for scientific evidence”. Worth noting is that a formal internal investigation by the European Parliament on undue influence by packaging lobbyists is underway. Politico broke the story having also been happy to take McDonald’s dollars and publish sponsored content from the fast food chain that spread what campaigners and academics claim is misinformation.

Hidden plastic. Evidence and workings from the industry reports published during 15 months of debate on PPWR are hard to find. An irony in all this is that a lot of the paper packaging used for foodservice can also contain ‘hidden plastic’. One positive was that the regulation bans the ‘forever chemicals’ PFAs. PPWR also sets mandatory deposit return schemes (DRS) for plastic bottles and cans.

EPR you ready? The UK’s DRS has been delayed until 2027. Other key waste policies are stumbling forward: draft extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations for packaging waste have just been published. However, the proposed mandatory take-back scheme for single-use cups has vanished. “It was decided that these obligations will be introduced through a separate regulation to allow further time for stakeholder engagement,” Defra told us. Does that mean the so-called ‘latte levy’ is back in play?

Plastic films. This week the government also announced more details of its “new, common sense approach to recycling”. By March 31st 2025, businesses, and non-domestic premises (except micro-firms with fewer than 10 staff), will be required to recycle all recyclable waste streams: metal, glass, plastic, paper, card, and food waste (excluding garden waste and plastic film). Collections of plastic films will begin by March 31st 2027. A business readiness forum with Defra officials takes place next week.

Our other stories this week include the growing appetite for carbon labels in foodservice; a new alliance in the US that’s aiming to accelerate alternative packaging formats for wine; and some novel recipes on offer at Hilton hotels to help reduce food waste.