A Single Circular Economy: How to Fix the Single Market
The Single Market is one of the EU’s greatest achievements, but fragmentation at national level is undermining the implementation of a successful circular economy for packaging. Marta Pacheco reports on how the packaging value chain sector, consumers and policymakers can address this challenge.
If the EU is serious about leading the global sustainability transition, it first needs to implement a single European circular economy within the Single Market. This was one of the key takeaways from a recent event hosted by the MEP Maria Spyraki in partnership with EUROPEN, the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment. A broad range of stakeholders discussed the role the Single Market can play in unlocking the European Green Deal.
In recent years, EU Member States have introduced unilateral measures and different requirements on packaging and packaged goods. While many EU countries are doing so to build a circular economy, the current disparity of measures at national level is leading to market fragmentation, hampering EU competitiveness and increasing the financial and administrative burden on SMEs. “We have seen new barriers coming up and they are actually reversing the circular economy trend,” said EUROPEN Secretary General Francesca Stevens opening the debate.
Notwithstanding these issues, these disparate measures are also driving consumer confusion. DG Environment representative Maja Desgrées du Loû said the Commission recognises “this is not an ideal situation”. In fact, the EU executive is currently reviewing legislation in this area with the upcoming Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) in a bid to “go for more harmonisation”. Stevens welcomed this approach and said that this must be an opportunity to harmonise packaging rules across Europe to address market distortions put in place at national level. The Secretary General of the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI), Jérôme Pero, also stressed the importance of the review of the EU rules on packaging, with implications on distribution, saying, “We need supply chains that can adapt, that are fast, that are agile, that are flexible. This requires a harmonised Single Market.”