How does the PPWR affect the packaging industry?

Image Source: Shutterstock | j.chizhe

Following the agreement between Parliament and the Council on 4 March 2024, the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation is just around the corner. It is already knocking on the door with the ongoing final trialogue procedure. Even if it has not yet finally entered the room: The fundamental and long-running social debates and trends are already valid. We show you where the new Packaging Regulation picks up on and reinforces its influence. From the recycling of resources (real recyclability, paperisation, barriers, recyclate use quotas) to the reduction of packaging consumption (overpackaging and minimisation), sustainability and intelligent packaging.


Recycling of resources

The first major social and political goal that the PPWR will take up and strengthen is the recycling of resources.


Real recyclability of all packaging

  • The undisputed top priority for the recycling of resources is the need for all packaging to be recyclable in the country in which it is used by end consumers. Packaging that does not fulfil this criterion, will no longer be marketable by 2030 at the latest!
  • This applies not only to Europe, but to many global markets. These include the USA, where Colgate is currently being sued for labelling its plastic toothpaste tube as “recyclable”, even though it is not accepted by the majority of recycling facilities in the USA.
  • The requirement for high and de facto recyclability reinforces sub-trends such as
    • fewer varnishes and paints, adhesives, etc.,
    • reduction of metallisation,
    • conversion to monomaterials and
    • basically reduction of anything, that could disrupt the recycling process.


Paperisation and reduction of plastic

One may ask whether the mega-trend of substituting plastic with paper or fibre-based packaging materials always makes sense or not. There is no question that paperisation is an important trend, which the PPWR reinforces through two political objectives:

  1. the recyclability in most markets and
  2. mandatory recyclate utilisation quotas
    • in both the food and non-food sectors and
    • for PET as well as for other plastics.

Use of recyclate

The plastics industry has clearly recognised that supplying the market with sufficient and high-quality quantities of recyclate is a major challenge. (Read our focus article on the price war and concerns about the future of recyclate here).

On the one hand, mandatory recycling quotas open business opportunities in the recycling segment. On the other hand, the use of recyclate harbours risks that some companies would like to avoid or mitigate by substituting paper (because paper naturally has its own risks and challenges).



In the context of paperisation trends, we are clearly seeing a high level of innovation in the area of barrier papers, which are a prerequisite for replacing plastic packaging for many products.  (See also the focus article in this newsletter on the topic of barriers).

This also creates great potential for innovation and new business opportunities. However, it remains a major challenge to find solutions that really achieve the goal of Super Trend 1 (real recyclability) and at the same time guarantee the necessary barrier requirements for a wide range of applications.


Reduction in the amount of packaging

The second major social and political goal is reduction. As a packaging industry, we should not delude ourselves at this point: Reducing the amount of packaging and packaging waste is a clear social and political goal. This applies not only at a national and European level, but also – sometimes more, sometimes less – globally. The packaging industry is not the only target of the mega-trend towards reduction. The textile and electrical industries also have a social waste problem.


All packaging materials affected

Plastic was and is only the first material in the reduction focus. The Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD) already sets reduction targets and the PPWR defines now clear targets for the reduction of all packaging waste. It therefore goes beyond plastic, even if there are separate plastic waste quotas for each member state.


Overpackaging and minimalisation

The avoidance of “too much packaging” and the minimisation of necessary packaging contribute to the reduction of the overall packaging volume as a trend-within-a-trend.

  • Overpackaging is seen as negative by more and more consumers and is a popular point of criticism. There are exceptions where the unboxing experience is an important part of the product experience for special products.
  • Minimisation goes beyond simply “using less material” and also affects the design of the packaging. It becomes more minimal, clearer, reduced to what is necessary – and thus also contributes to recyclability and the recycling of resources.

Overpackaging and minimisation are non-discriminatory trends in the sense that they go beyond plastic and encompass all packaging materials. Accordingly, we see material-agnostic minimisation approaches and commitments. A current example is the reduction in the use of paper, such as Tesco’s decision not to use cardboard rolls for its aluminium household foil.


The big overarching theme: sustainable packaging

The major goals and the associated trends of recycling, resource conservation and the reduction of packaging consumption find their home in the mega-trend of sustainable packaging.

Less packaging means less material consumption. Good factual recyclability means better resource efficiency. Both lead to fewer greenhouse gas emissions, a better carbon footprint, less use of (primary) raw materials and resources, and so on and so forth.


Just touched: The intelligent packaging

The trend towards intelligent packaging is only indirectly promoted by the PPWR. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned here. This is because the use of AI and other forms of digitalisation not only promotes the direct exchange of packaging with in particular the younger generation of consumers. It can also convey important information for an intelligent, more efficient recycling process. This is also the aim of the EU’s standardised labelling system, which will be strengthened as part of the PPWR.


How to utilise trends and political objectives

These are exciting times for the packaging industry, whether you like it or not. What is certain is that there are great chances for companies that accept the challenges, actively shape them, and focus on the opportunities in their business model.


At B+P, we are happy to help you adapt your product portfolio and your product strategy to the new trends.

    You have questions about this article?

    Avatar photo

    Your contact person

    Jenny Walther-Thoß