Natural Mineral Waters Europe and UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe joint statement on recycling claims

7 November 2023

The beverage sector is a pioneer in packaging circularity and places great importance on clear and transparent communication towards the consumer. The industry follows recognised robust frameworks[1],[2] to design its PET bottles for recycling and guidance on claims to consumers. Still further improvements can be made to achieve EU-harmonised rules through coming regulations such as the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) and Green Claims Directive, and to have the best enablers in place to close the loop and reach the full potential of circular packaging.

Full statement

The beverage sector is a pioneer in packaging circularity and places great importance on clear and transparent communication towards the consumer, in compliance with applicable laws and regulations to protect consumers.

As a result of our members’ sustained investment in eco-design, such as establishing the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) with the packaging value chain to promote PET bottle design for recycling, PET beverage bottle bodies are 100% recyclable.

PET is the most recycled plastic packaging material in Europe thanks to our sector’s funding of separate collection, sorting and recycling systems for our bottles, whether through Extended Responsibility Schemes (EPR) or Deposit and Return Systems (DRS).

As recognised by EU law, the use of recycled PET (rPET) has an environmental benefit.[3] However, beverage producers’ ability to incorporate rPET back into their bottles depends on the availability of and access to a sufficient quantity of high-quality recycled material. Whilst some products do use very high or 100% rPET in their bottles, this cannot yet be achieved for every bottle. Unfortunately, collection rates for beverage packaging at EU level are stagnating below 60% and the PET from recycled bottles is often downcycled into other applications. When diving into the national figures we do see that countries with DRS have much higher performance rates of collection and recycling, most surpassing mandatory EU targets. We see the current revision of the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation as an opportunity to overcome these challenges at EU level. This is why we are advocating for a wider rollout of well-designed DRS as the proven most effective pathway to high rates of separate collection for recycling. We are also calling for a priority access right to our recycled material to ensure a stable supply that enables us to reach ambitious recycled content targets.

Increasing circularity is a complex task and a shared responsibility involving many actors along the value chain (waste management authorities, recyclers, etc.). We are proud of the progress our members have made so far, and as a sector we are determined to go further. Our members will continue their efforts to provide easy-to-understand and useful information to consumers to help them make sustainable choices. We are ready to work with consumer organisations on the best way to communicate these efforts in a clear and transparent fashion while allowing for them to be recognised as valuable for the environment.

Contact

John McLean, Senior Communications Manager, Natural Mineral Waters Europe

Inês Rebelo, Communications Manager, UNESDA – Soft Drinks Europe

About NMWE

Natural Mineral Waters Europe has been the voice of natural mineral water and spring water since 1953, and today represents more than 500 producers. The sector provides European consumers with healthy, natural and high-quality hydration. Pioneers in sustainable management, our members have a long tradition of working in partnership with local communities to safeguard the environment around water resources. Our mission extends to achieving full circularity for all packaging.

About UNESDA – Soft Drinks Europe

Established in 1958, UNESDA – Soft Drinks Europe is the Brussels-based trade association representing the non-alcoholic beverages sector. Its membership comprises of 10 companies and 25 national associations from across Europe. UNESDA members are involved in the production and/or distribution of a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages, including still drinks, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, iced teas, flavoured waters and sports drinks.

[1] ISO 14021 – Environmental labels and declarations — Self-declared environmental claims (Type II environmental labelling) https://www.iso.org/standard/66652.html

[2] European PET Bottle Platform, Design Guidelines https://www.epbp.org/design-guidelines

[3] Single Use Plastics Directive, proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation