100% recyclable packaging by 2030, an achievable goal?

There are 5,000 billion pieces of plastic floating in the oceans today; all seabirds will routinely eat plastic by 2050; Of the approximately 7 billion tons of plastic produced by humanity since 2015, 79% is collected in open landfills or decomposes in nature; and according to calculations, the plastic will have a minimum life of 450 years and maybe more… Giving vertigo, these are a few numbers it barely allows us to measure the true tidal wave of packaging that is constantly being poured over the planet and its oceans. To stop the bleeding, the European Union (EU) has proposed a series of measures to reduce packaging waste and promote reuse and recycling.

It is urgent. Although each European produces around 180 kg of packaging waste per year, the EU could see a further 46% increase in plastic packaging waste by 2030 if left unchecked. Unnecessary packaging, reduce packaging waste by 15% by 2040, reusable solutions, make all packaging recyclable… Measures presented by the European Commission as part of the “Green Deal for Europe” last October. France accepted in turn The principle of banning single-use plastic packaging by 2040 within the framework of the Agec law (“Against waste for a circular economy”). So many initiatives that will take years, if not decades, to bear fruit; meanwhile, what are the alternatives to all-plastic and its harmful effects on the environment?

Wooden or glass packaging, hassle-free alternatives

Wood from renewable and sustainably managed forests is among the alternatives presented as packaging (pallets, industrial crates, lightweight packaging, drums, corrugated cardboard, etc.). greener than plastic. So in terms of carbon footprint, 100% recyclable and biodegradable, corrugated cardboard produces four to six times less CO2 than plastic at the end of its life cycle. or aluminum (784 kilos of CO2 per ton, over 4250 kg/ton). Similarly, almost eight percent of recycled pallets can be returned to the market, while the remaining 20% ​​is turned into shredded material (for material or energy recovery purposes). Advantages that make wood packaging a sustainable alternative to plastic, especially since France is a leader in the wood packaging market.

With 1.5 billion euros and 20% of the turnover of the European sector, France is actually at the top of the EU countries in the production of wood packaging. Long on the fringes of the packaging market, the wood packaging sector has for several years benefited from a distinctly renewed interest that has accelerated its profound transformation. Although pallets and pallet boxes remain the most popular solution with more than half of the sector’s turnover, the craze is now focused on packaging made from biomaterials.

With its long shelf life and endless recyclability, glass packaging is popular for its reusable side. Glass especially contributes to the brand image of the companies that use it. But the big return of glass to supermarket shelves is essentially driven by the deposit box: abandoned in favor of single-use plastic in the 1960s, The savings system now faces fierce opposition from major retailerswhich sees the generalization of glass collection points as an additional cost. Unlike mass produced products, this zero-waste alternative currently hitting supermarket shelves – but cannot be generalized to all products.

“100% recycling is not possible for any material”

Changing consumption patterns or packaging materials can indeed limit plastic pollution – but will it eliminate it entirely? Some doubt it, like Hervé Guerry, president of Cycl-Add, a start-up specializing in plastics from non-recyclable waste: “Generally speaking, no material is 100% recyclable, be it plastic, steel, glass or cardboard. Today, there are still many obstacles.”, assures the entrepreneur. Thus, recycling processes remain perfect: While between 1.9 and 4.5 million tons of plastic waste is thrown away in France every year, only a little over a quarter (26%) of this waste is recycled today..

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