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Single Use Plastic Directive SUPD – the new regulation is soon to be implemented

Europe is striving to go “greener”. The new legislation will prohibit the use of single-use plastic in the future if there is a more sustainable solution. Despite some ambiguity in its implementation, the SUPD represents a huge opportunity for paper and cardboard products as single and joint products.

As of 3 July. The Single Use Plastic Directive will come into effect and be adopted into German law. Going forward, the sale and use of certain single-use plastic products will be prohibited where more sustainable alternatives exist. The EU member states are striving to significantly reduce the consumption of plastic food and drinks containers. They will also receive fixed quotas for material reuse of recyclates. This quota will be increased to 90% for recovered paper. A difficult yet worthwhile target. In addition to this, manufacturers will also be involved in the costs for cleaning measures, transport and disposal of food containers, films, plastic bottles, cups and other products. The directive aims to continuously monitor whether further plastic products can be banned as more environmentally friendly alternatives emerge.

Details are in dispute. One of them: Are all polymer-coated cups or cartonboard packaging falling under the directive? The directive does not specify any threshold for the necessary proportion of plastic. Considered instead is whether the plastic components have a necessary function for the product. Associations from across the paper and packaging industry therefore recommend defining a permitted maximum polymer value. This would prevent coated paper products that contain only a very small proportion of polymers by weight from being affected by the measures outlined in the directive. The associations also demand that natural polymers are clearly removed from the scope of the directive. An update of the directive is urgently recommended.

Recyclability confirmed. Other packaging manufacturers, such as those that work with plastic, fear that the SUPD and its implementation as part of German law may lead to significant losses in quantities and market shares. This would in their opinion, in turn, bring into question the ecological sense and recycling capability of coated paper and cartonboard products. A study carried out by the German paper technology foundation, Papiertechnische Stiftung (PTS), on behalf of the German folding cartons industry association, the Fachverband Faltschachtelindustrie (FFI), clearly proved that such products can be recycled without a problem. The FFI therefore recommends that these are disposed of in “blue bins” to be part of the recovered paper recycling loop.

WEIG’s expertise: WEIG has proven that it is possible to used coated paper products for cartonboard production as part of a raw material cycle. Extraneous parts and impurities are separated as part of material processing and used for thermal recovery within WEIG’s own power plant. This ensures that valuable fibres are preserved for material use and natural resources are conserved. It should be noted, however, that these paper products are collected via the recovered paper cycle or a separate collection system. Specific tests were done in this regard in cooperation between WEIG Karton and WEIG Recycling to prove the recyclability of the paper compounds both contained in recovered paper and separately collected.

What needs to be done? The Central Agency Packaging Register (ZSVR) responsible for the classification of packaging according to single and joint materials in Germany, with which all packaging intended for circulation must be registered, must complete a new evaluation of the recyclability of paper compounds and modify the limits between single and joint materials.
Only this way can we achieve the targets set out in the SUPD for the reuse of recyclates (in particular recovered paper) without unnecessary delay.

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