27 Apr 2021

Fresh and out-of-the-box: Meet our guests from across the packaging value chain

Interview Hans van Bochove, Chair of EUROPEN and Vice-President of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Coca-Cola European Partners

Hans, you have recently been re-confirmed in your role as Chair of EUROPEN’s Executive Committee. What are the main priorities for EUROPEN during your new mandate?

I am very honoured EUROPEN members trusted me again to be part of the Executive Committee and renewed my mandate as Chair. The agenda for the next two years continues to be a full one for our industry. The policy and regulatory focus is high, as packaging plays a key role in supporting the transitioning to a climate neutral, circular and competitive economy. EUROPEN will continue to work closely with policy-makers and stakeholders to ensure that this process delivers a future-proof regulatory framework, which could be truly transformative for the entire packaging supply chain.

We are also striving for greater harmonisation and better enforcement of both existing and upcoming legislation across the EU. The increasing number of diverging national measures on packaging is extremely concerning. Ensuring the free flow of packaging and packaged goods across the Single Market remains a key priority for EUROPEN with a view to continue to drive investments in innovation and support the sustainable transition of the packaging industry.

Last but not least, we need to step-up the level of engagement and cooperation with our partners across the packaging value chain. As the scope of packaging-related policy and legislation is expanding, it is important that policy-makers and regulators consider the implications not only on packaging but also on the packaged goods and their supply chains. Promoting a better understanding of the intrinsic relationship between packaging and products is also essential to ensure appropriate responses in crisis situations. This became most evident during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak last year. Because packaging was not initially recognised as a critical industry, many packaging facilities had to stop production with consequent disruptions on essential supply chains.

You mentioned that there are many legislative milestones planned in the coming months. A particularly important one for EUROPEN is the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. What are EUROPEN’s expectations for its review?

The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive is the centrepiece legislation on packaging. Since its introduction in 1994, it has a played a key role in ensuring a harmonised framework to regulate packaging and packaging waste. The European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan have set the bar high for the upcoming review of the Directive, with ambitious policy goals from waste prevention to reuse and recycling. EUROPEN supports these ambitious goals and our members are taking concrete actions towards them, for example by developing optimal packaging solutions to reduce packaging waste and innovative packaging design for increased reuse and recycling.

It is fair to say that review has the potential to be a real game changer and a concrete opportunity to accelerate the sustainable transformation of the entire packaging supply chain. Given the breadth and complexity of the review, it is essential that the new measures are designed on the basis of a thorough and evidence-based impact assessment, supported by regular dialogues and consultations with relevant stakeholders. The current timeline for the adoption of the proposal, however, is very tight and we remain concerned about the implications that a rushed process might have on delivering a robust and ambitious proposal.

What do you see on the horizon when it comes to upcoming challenges and opportunities for our sector?

Packaging brings an important contribution towards achieving the EU climate and sustainability goals. This implies an effort on multiple fronts: continuing to reduce the climate and environmental impacts linked to producing packaging, accelerating the development of sustainable packaging solutions and circular consumption models, preventing resource and product waste by protecting products all along the value chain.

While the challenges are not insignificant, our industry has an enormous innovation potential to help us overcome them. But we cannot do it alone. Having a robust regulatory framework built on sound, evidence-based science and creating a conducive investment environment will be essential to enable the uptake of innovative technologies, processes and packaging solutions.