The European packaging industry must retain leadership based around four key pillars: resource efficiency; R&D and innovation; social dialogue; sustainability and adaptation.
Resource efficiency: The sector has a pivotal role to play in boosting the recycling rates of the EU Member States. However, companies still need support in achieving this goal and the EESC believes that the European Commission could provide assistance on this issue, giving more information about best practices and the best use of available resources.
Challenges: The EESC believes that the balanced price energy issue should be a policy priority for the EU regarding this specific industry. To further contribute to the EU's carbon emission targets, each sector of the industry should set realistic targets for recycling, in line with those defined in EU law (the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and the Waste Framework Directive) associated with the Europe 2020 strategy and thereafter provide annual statements to measure progress. A public awareness campaign might be an option also to boost the "essential requirements" defined by the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive regarding "overpackaging". By way of an example, the Commission should set a precise timetable with a view to calling for a total ban on disposable plastic bags and the promotion of reusable or biodegradable bags.
Research and Development and innovation: The Commission's support would be welcome in organising an improved methodology for the collection of sector data. The EESC believes that key R&D challenges for the sector are also significant and include the efficient transport of goods, the effectiveness of traceability systems, cost reduction, and regulatory and safety issues, along with eco-design and life cycle package performance. The EESC considers that with these specific needs and approach, it is very important that the innovation Horizon 2020 funds be a priority and an opportunity for the packaging industry. It is crucial for the sector’s long-term survival that capital investment takes place in conjunction with investment in the sector’s workforce.
The Commission states that e-commerce "is an important driver for development with a potential for economic growth and rising employment estimated at over 10% between 2013 and 2016". This evolution might be an incentive to implement new solutions aimed at reducing waste materials such as cardboard and plastic, and R&D activities must keep these trends in mind.
The EESC believes that the discussion for sector sustainability must be achieved through civil-society and social dialogue at national and European level. The creation of a Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (SSDC) for the packaging industry could provide such an opportunity.