Sinkevicius: EU aims to ensure viable food packaging recycling by 2030

Commissioner Sinkevicius delivers a speech during Lisbon 2020 European Green Capital ceremony at Carlos Lopes Pavillion in Lisbon on January 11, 2020. [European Commission]

This article is part of our special report Sustainable food systems in the Farm to Fork strategy.

The Circular Economy Action Plan and the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F) have the same overarching objective of reducing unsustainable resource use by promoting sustainable production and consumption and reducing waste generation, Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius told EURACTIV.

The Commission plans to table both initiatives in the first quarter of this year, according to the work programme released on 29 January.

Contacted by EURACTIV, the young Lithuanian Commissioner said he is working with his colleagues at the Berlaymont to ensure that the F2F initiative includes circularity principles at its core.

“One of our key commitments is to prevent food waste,” he said, adding that the EU executive wants to ensure the EU’s contribution to one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to reduce by 50% the per capita global food waste by 2030.

The Commission adopted in 2019 a food waste measurement methodology and will work towards setting an EU-wide target for food waste reduction, based on the data collected by member states.

“There is potential to reduce the generation of food waste all along the value chain – in primary production, in processing and manufacturing, in retail and other distribution of food, in restaurants and food services as well as in households,” Sinkevičius said.

“We have to promote ways to distribute food that simultaneously deal with the problems of food waste and the rising levels of packaging waste,” he explained.

The Commissioner added that his team is working on amending the EU legislation to ensure that packaging, including the packaging used by the food and beverage industry, is recyclable and reusable in an economically viable manner by 2030.

First ‘millennial’ Commissioner to address challenges for Generation Z

Putting the youngest ever Commissioner-designate in charge of managing the most fearful threats for future generations of Europeans, such as environment protection and oceans’ conservation, is the biggest gamble Ursula von der Leyen took in composing her team.

When addressing the food system, the EU should aim to adopt a comprehensive approach that will also look at the ways we keep food fresh, according to Sinkevičius.

An important step would be tackling the plastic packaging problem and prescribing the use of recycled plastic.

Last year, the EU signed off on measures that include bans on single-use plastic plates, cutlery, expanded polystyrene food containers, beverage cups, balloon sticks, straws and cotton bud sticks.

The proposal was one of the most quickly finalised pieces of legislation in recent EU memory, highlighting Europe’s willingness to be a global leader in tackling plastic marine litter.

“We definitely want to expand the rules for single-use plastics and are currently investigating in which direction it would be possible,” Sinkevičius said.

EU nails rapid-fire deal on single-use plastics

Negotiators of the European Parliament, Council and Commission struck a provisional agreement early Wednesday morning (19 December) on banning single-use plastic products like cutlery and food containers, in what is one of the most quickly finalised proposals in recent EU memory.

Europe’s food and drink lobby group, FoodDrinkEurope, agreed on the need to develop a holistic and coordinated approach from farm to fork involving everyone.

“The concept of a circular and sustainable economy should be reconciled within the Farm to Fork Strategy, whilst ensuring that Europe remains the world leader in food safety,” said Laura Degallaix, director of environmental sustainability at FoodDrinkEurope.

For her, an effective transition to more sustainable food systems requires addressing the three pillars of sustainability in a coherent, consistent, and integrated manner, acting throughout the entire food chain and at all geographical levels.

In a letter sent by EuroCommerce to Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, seen by EURACTIV, the retailers’ organisation asked the Commission to work towards a circular economy by better enforcing the agreed targets, with member states.

“The approach needs to be practical and balance environmental objectives with the need for safety and convenience, and enable the Single Market to function,” the letter said.

On the same page, the association of European consumer co-operatives, EuroCoop, consider it key to couple climate-smart, resource-efficient food systems with strong empowerment of communities.

“We believe that the concept of circularity should be fully embedded in the upcoming Farm to Fork Strategy,” the Secretary-General of Euro Coop, Todor Ivanov, told EURACTIV.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Subscribe to our newsletters