Corrugated Board Industry Against Blanket Reusable Quotas in Online Trade
Corrugated board manufacturers warn of impending consequences of the EU Packaging Regulation: more plastic, more transport kilometers, higher costs. A new study assesses planned reusable quotas as not achieving their goals.
If the reusable quotas for e-commerce and certain transport packaging envisaged in the draft European Packaging Regulation were to be implemented, this would have significant negative effects but only comparatively minor benefits. This is the assessment reached by the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung (GVM) in a new study commissioned by the Verband der Wellpappen-Industrie e.V. (VDW).
The EU's plan to gradually introduce quotas for reusable shipping packaging therefore also meets with rejection by the corrugated board industry. The EU draft, Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), envisages a step-by-step solution: Starting in 2030, 10 percent of packaging should be able to circulate multiple times in e-commerce, then 50 percent from 2040 onwards. Large household appliances such as refrigerators are also to be supplied in reusable packaging.
GVM's analysis uses baseline data from 2021 to shed light on how the reusable quotas for transport and mail-order packaging envisaged in the draft regulation would affect the German market. In comparison, according to the experts' analysis, implementing the reusable target for 2030 would shrink consumption of corrugated packaging in Germany by 139,000 tons or 3 percent to just under 4.2 million tons. In 2040, there would be an 11 percent decrease compared to the base year. According to GVM, the initial decline in volume alone would correspond to the capacity of three corrugated board plants with around 500 jobs and a slump in industry sales of 200 million euros.
Longer Transport Routes
The eliminated fiber-based packaging material would be replaced in a "steady-state" system by the somewhat smaller volume of 114,000 tons of reusable transport packaging. However, 285 tons of reusable shipping boxes and bags would initially need to be purchased in 2030. Contrary to the EU's volume reduction targets, the total net tonnage at the start of the system would be 146,000 tons higher than in 2021, and in 2040 it would even be 200,000 tons higher compared the amount in 2021. Since reusable packaging is predominantly made of plastic, the amount of plastic in the market segment examined would gradually increase by 3 and 11 percent.
The GVM also emphasizes that the proposed reusable quotas would require considerable and costly conversions along the value chain. According to the study, the distances to be covered by logistics vehicles would be 2.3 times (2030) and 3 times (2040) the distances in 2021.
"A comparatively low benefit is offset by high costs," say the GVM experts with regard to the expected development of the German market for transport packaging for e-commerce goods and large household appliances. Therefore, blanket requirements for the use of reusable packaging are "not expedient". However, this does not mean that the use of reusable packaging is not sensible "in individual cases".
With reference to the GVM forecasts on the increase in the total volume of packaging as well as considerably more demand for transport and storage space, the VdW sees the planned blanket reusable quotas as clearly contradicting the EU's sustainability goals. VdW Chairman Steffen P. Würth also views the predicted expansion of plastics as "alarming": "The vast majority of plastics will continue to be produced from fossil raw materials, unlike corrugated board, which is made from renewable resources." Würth also points to the high recycling rate of around 80 percent for the fiber-based packaging materials paper, cardboard and board. The proportion of recycled material in finished packaging is already higher among VdW members.