DS Smith: New EU regulations risk triggering a wave of new plastic packaging and contradict years of progress to limit plastics in the EU

5 July 2023

EU to agree on new rules on packaging and derived waste, but amendments to Commission proposal risk flooding the market with millions of tonnes of new plastic and reversing a decade of measures to limit the use of plastics, according to DS Smith, the FTSE 100 company leader in the sector of sustainable packaging, paper products and recycling.

Amendments to the Commission's proposal for a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) are being discussed by Members of the European Parliament and Member States and the proposed changes include mandatory reuse targets for all materials.

Mandatory reuse targets covering all materials would increase the volume of plastic packaging in circulation, creating a plastics monopoly in some segments of the market, according to an independent peer-reviewed analysis commissioned by FEFCO 1 .

For example, if the amendments are applied to the cardboard and corrugated packaging categories for transportation and e-commerce, 8.1 billion new plastic crates weighing 12 million tonnes will be needed to meet a reuse target equal to 90% by 2040, and it will take 16 billion liters of water to wash only half of it to be able to reuse it 2 .

This massive addition of plastic to the EU economy contradicts years of progress in limiting the use of plastic packaging in the EU and around the world.

In the event that these controversial amendments are adopted, the PPWR:

  • It would risk adding billions more pieces of plastic to the 91% 3 of the existing one that remains unrecycled;
  • It would penalize the most widely recycled packaging material and pose serious threats to the functioning of the recycling system that works best in the EU
  • It would undermine the success of recent policy initiatives to limit the use of plastics in the EU, including the Single Use Plastics Directive;
  • It would contradict the objectives of the ongoing negotiations on the important international treaty aimed at limiting plastic pollution.

Paolo Marini, Managing Director DS Smith Packaging Italia

“We confirm our commitment to achieving the objectives of the Green Deal, but we strongly believe that companies and associations must have a role of greater responsibility by working towards objectives, being competent subjects able to give strong support to the achievement of the objectives set. Recycling and reuse can coexist and companies, having to achieve clear and shared objectives, must have the autonomy to operate by choosing the best solution each time. Italy, making a virtue out of necessity, has done an excellent job in managing the circular economy and through the support of consortia, has achieved important goals in terms of recycled paper, reaching a percentage of 85%, i.e. the target that the European community has set itself a target for 2030.

According to Life Cycle Analysis data provided by FEFCO 4 , reusable plastic trays need to be reused at least 63 times to be environmentally sustainable. Conversely, with a recycling rate of over 80%, cartonboard is the most recycled packaging material, and the sector is committed to ambitious decarbonisation goals.

Over the past decade, DS Smith has developed a circular model that uses only 100% recyclable paper-based packaging. The company has also partnered with the world's biggest brands to replace plastics with recyclables in their supply chains and has created more than 1,000 reuse models, as well as exploring pilot projects and collaborations in situations where the reuse of cardboard has a sense.


1 FEFCO - European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers

2 Dati FEFCO. Fonti: Plastics Europe, IFCO, Albrecht 2021, FEFCO, Investopedia

3 According to the OECD, plastic pollution is increasing unabated due to poor waste management and recycling

4 FEFCO_Visual_Overview_v8.1.pdf


The original text of this announcement, written in the source language, is the official version which is authentic. Translations are offered solely for the convenience of the reader and must refer to the text in the original language, which is the only legally valid one.

Headland Consultancy: Ewa Lewszyk, Mia Dexter