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Impact assessment of substituting corrugated cardboard by reusable packaging

Ambitious targets for reusable packaging

Corrugated cardboard packaging is widely used for transport and protects over 75% of the goods shipped in Europe. This leading position is based on appealing environmental and logistics characteristics of corrugated cardboard packaging.

The European Commission’s proposed Regulation on Packaging and Packaging Waste (PPWR) contains reuse targets that would have far-reaching effects on packaging design and selected materials. Corrugated cardboard packaging, which is almost exclusively single-use, would be significantly affected if reuse targets were applied across the board without taking into account the economic, logistics, and environmental benefits of the material in a wide range of packaging applications.

Quantitative and qualitative insights

This report looks at the potential impact of replacing corrugated cardboard with reusable packaging, focusing on logistics aspects including transport and storage, as well as environmental impacts. The analysis builds on two case studies related to grouped packaging for biscuits and packaging for heavy furniture kits. An analytical model compiles insights from industry interviews and literature data to provide quantitative, as well as qualitative insights.

Key findings

Legal obligations that impose reuse would lead to substantial logistics challenges all along the supply chain, as well as many practical issues. It will not only be challenging for market actors, but the burden for end-consumers might be significant and it could be damaging for the environment.

About FEFCO

The European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO) is a non-profit organisation representing the interests of the industry across Europe and addressing a wide range of issues, from technical topics to economical questions.

Headquartered in Brussels, FEFCO was established in 1952 and is the European umbrella organisation of the corrugated Board Industry. It regroups 16 National Associations (active members), Corresponding members (corrugated board producers in countries where there is no National Association) and Sympathiser members (Suppliers to the industry).

The role of the Federation is to investigate economic, financial, technical and marketing issues of interest to the corrugated packaging Industry, to analyse all factors which may influence the industry, and to promote and develop its image.

FEFCO offices are located in Brussels. The International Association is governed by Belgian Law.

This study shows that it is not always straightforward to foresee the impacts of a legislation. Legislative measures that do not consider the complexity of the packaging supply chain can lead to environmentally unsustainable policy decisions.

Outi Marin, Chair of Sustainability & Circularity workgroup at Fefco

The impact assessment of the two case studies highlights that the reuse targets proposed in the PPWR require a more in-depth analysis.The case studies for biscuit and furniture packaging give insights on the challenges in packaging decision-making and demonstrate that high reuse targets are not always the right solution environmentally or economically.

Eleni Despotou, Director General at Fefco

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