What’s the problem with paper-based packaging?
In the European Union (EU), packaging and packaging waste has risen fast and is projected to rise another 19 per cent in the next seven years. We use and throw away mountains of packaging - on average around 180 kilograms per European per year. And the most widely used and fastest growing packaging material is paper and card, most often mechanically laced with plastic, which is notoriously difficult to recycle. Overwhelmingly, Europeans are concerned about increased packaging and resulting impact on forests.
Three billion trees are cut down annually to meet the demand for paper packaging. The pulp and paper industry is one of the world’s major polluters and one of the heaviest users of fresh water. It also consumes four per cent of the world’s energy and is chemically intensive, polluting rivers and harming ecosystems.
The pulp and paper industry has negatively shaped forestry and is likely to harm future forests too. It has also left a trail of human suffering, as monoculture plantations suffocate communities living near them. From devastating forest fires in Portugal due to the drying effect of eucalyptus plantations, to intimidation and violence towards Indigenous Peoples in Chile. From Finland’s collapsing carbon sink, to Sweden replacing diverse forests with monoculture tree plantations, and the ravaging of Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands.
In November 2022 the European Commission published a new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) to adopt strong measures to reduce single-use packaging and shift to re-use systems that reduce the impact of packaging on the natural environment and communities for the long-term. It is now being revised by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament.