Beverage Packaging ReUse Conference in Brussels: A Chance for Waste Prevention and Increased Resource Efficiency

Brussels/Berlin, 7th of October 2010: The participants of the 3rd European ReUse Conference in Brussels are asking for a stronger commitment to reusable beverage packaging from EU Member States. The ambitious implementation of the five step waste hierarchy and the promotion of reusable systems are supporting pillars for the aspired transition into a resource efficient recycling society. The European Federation of Associations of Beer and Beverages Wholesalers (CEGROBB), the Association of Small and Independent Breweries in Europe (S.I.B.) and the German Environmental Aid (DUH) organized the European ReUse Conference on Wednesday for the third time.

The European Waste Framework Directive gives clear priority for waste prevention as the first step of the waste hierarchy, before recycling or others types of waste recovery. The transposition of the Directive until December 2010 offers Member States an exceptional possibility to promote reusable packaging as one way to reach the priority objective of waste prevention. “Systems for refillable bottles stand for an intelligent use of resources, for climate protection as well as for regional products and economically strong regions. Through their frequent refilling, reusable bottles are conserving valuable resources and contributing to reaching of the European targets for reduced climate gases’ emissions” said CEGROBB President Philip Schraven. He concluded that several new initiatives improving refillable systems have been initiated by individual reuse-oriented beverage producers since the first ReUse Conference in 2007 but called for political and legislative support in order to promote refillable bottles on a European level.

Jo Leinen MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament´s Environment Committee, confirmed that packaging reuse schemes and initiatives have an important part to play in the creation of green jobs and the development of the green economy. In his keynote speech at the ReUse Conference he opened the discussion on introducing targets for prevention and reuse in the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. Emphasizing that the footprint of the 27 Member States in the EU is more than double its regenerative capacity and thus endangers the availability of natural resources, he added that “Waste prevention and the conservation of resources have never been more important and pressing political priorities. The EU needs radically to re-think its patterns of resource use over the next decades in order to ensure more sustainable growth and management of its resources”.

The CO2 emissions caused by packaging waste are only to be reduced by a shift from a throwaway society to regional driven reuse cycles. The majority of the beverages in refillable bottles are sold close to where they were produced. Reusable systems therefore contribute to securing regional jobs on a long-term-basis. “Reusable packaging is a sensible way to use resources and to support local products and economic structures. Strengthening and introducing new reuse systems in EU Member States would not only contribute to the environmental protection objectives, but also acknowledge of the medium-sized businesses in the beverage sector”, explained Roland Demleitner, Managing Director of S.I.B. Alone in Germany, such businesses are accountable for round 170.000 jobs, that cannot be exported.

However, the organizers of the ReUse Conference pointed out, that manufacturers of beverages in one-way bottles and cans actively aim for the in some Member States still remaining market share of products in reusable and environmentally friendly bottles. “In order to reach the goal of market domination the one-way industry needs arguments. So it buys them. Namely in the form of life cycle assessments based on extreme one-sided and unrealistic figures leading to misleadingly positive results for PET one-way bottles and cans”, Jürgen Resch, DUH Managing Director, explained. The plastics industry as well as the Beverage Can Makers Europe (BCME) has commissioned LCAs to the German IFEU Institute, feeding the contractor with their own figures, requests and assumptions. “An LCA is like a black box: if you enter false and invalid data and misleading assumptions into the calculations, you end up with the wrong results. And this is what happened with the LCAs recently published by the plastics and beverage can industry”, so Resch. Based on the LCA on beverage cans for beer, BCME lobby communicated broadly to the general public that the beverage would be on par with the environmentally friendly reusable glass bottle. On a DUH initiative, the beverage can lobby has – under penalty of an injunction – been forced to stop its misleading communication. “By signing an agreement, not to call the beverage can environmentally on par with the refillable glass bottle in the future, BCME practically confirmed over the last months having misled consumers and attempting to find eco-friendliness where there were none”, Jürgen Resch closed.

At the ReUse Conference the European Refillable Award for innovative and pre-eminent performance promoting or further improving eco-friendly reusable systems was awarded for the second time. The first of the two years winner was RheinfelsQuellen H. Hövelmann GmbH, a German beverage producer. The company was awarded for the new design and the market launch of an improved crate for reusable mineral water bottles. Besides improved logistic, the new crate improves the carrying convenience using a middle grip and serves as a natural eye-catcher stimulating the demand for reusable products at the point of sale. The second winner of the European Refillable Award 2010 was Fusari SRL for introducing a refillable system for beverages in Italy. The Fusari motto for developing an efficient reuse system is “Back to the past to guarantee the future”. In line with the initiative “I love the future” Fusari has not only invested in the practical realization of a reuse system, but also in the communication of its ecological advantages raising the awareness public of the eco-sustainable products especially in the young public.

Source: German Environmental Aid www.duh.de.

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