Here we go: EU Directive 2019/904 of 5 June 2019 – also known as Single Use Plastic (SUP) – came into force a few days ago.
Its aim is to reduce or ban the production (and therefore the sale) of the 10 most frequently found single-use plastic products on European beaches and seas.
The ban, however, covers a limited range of products, i.e. those that offer a sustainable alternative on the market: plates and cups, straws, cocktail stirrers, cotton swabs, polystyrene food and drink containers.
Manufacturers are asked to invest – and quickly – in alternatives to single-use plastics that not only meet sustainability requirements but also satisfy an increasingly aware consumer with new needs.
Fighting useless plastics, not manufacturers.
The EU’s SUP Directive has caused some controversy. Packaging and disposable product manufacturers have voiced their disapproval: the ban would mean a huge number of lost jobs.
This directive would also apply to products made from a mix of different materials, such as paper cups with thin plastic coatings.
And manufacturers are now in turmoil.
However, the European Union has been clear on this point: the directive aims to eliminate or at least reduce the production of “unnecessary ” plastic products.
Since if properly used and disposed of it is necessary for various products, such as medical and life-saving devices (health emergencies have taught us something about this).
So it is surplus that is worrying: plastic is used indiscriminately and, many times, for unnecessary packaging. Think of the packaging in the fruit and vegetable departments of supermarkets: are we really sure that it is necessary to use plastic trays for four apples?
Alternatives to single use plastics: it is immobility that kills us, not innovation
It is legitimate to say that the directive should be improved. But it cannot be said that its aim is to destroy the production sector. The watchwords for industry should from now on be evolution and innovation. First of all, the logic of the disposable product should be re-evaluated, regardless of the material used: the aim is to guide the consumer towards eco-friendly and reusable alternatives, effectively communicating their positive impact on the environment and health.
Second, push further for recycling: in Europe not enough waste is disposed of and recycled properly. Measures such as a tax on non-recycled plastics could be a winning move.
And finally, to focus on materials with a reduced environmental impact. Aluminium, for example, has a versatility that no other material can provide today and would be able to replace plastics in many products on the market.
For example, packaging for takeaways and the tourism sector: trays, pizza containers, cups and glasses, but also sauces and cosmetic products: aluminium could replace materials that cannot be recycled or become a way to differentiate the product and make it unique in the eyes of consumers.
In particular, aluminium tubes are one of the most innovative formats, responding to the needs of consumers who demand convenience, hygiene and sustainability from packaging.
ToBeUnique, the innovative print that ensures continuity between the capsule and the tube, is a perfect exemple of how the evolution of packaging materials can open the door to a greener future with producer and consumer-friendly solutions.
Ecological transition should therefore neither frighten nor be rejected: it will be difficult for us to finally take care of the planet without accepting that innovation is an integral part of the process of change.