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GVM study: Less plastic means more packaging

Substituting plastics would increase the amount of post-consumer waste by up to 20 percent, the study found.


Against the backdrop of the current discussion about the planned EU Packaging Regulation (PPR), for which, among other things, reusable quotas are being proposed and a special reduction target for plastic packaging is being discussed, GVM Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung, commissioned by the IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen, has investigated what impact the substitution of plastic packaging with other materials such as glass, paper/cardboard/cardboard (PPK), ferrous metals or aluminum would have. The study is said to prove that no other material can be used to package goods as efficiently as plastic. According to GVM calculations, an average of 24 grams of plastic was sufficient to safely package one kilogram of product. Other materials required an average of 116 grams, almost five times the amount, according to the study. According to the study, substituting just 10 percent of plastic packaging would lead to an increase of 10 to 20 percent in packaging consumption and thus also in packaging waste generated close to home. This would make the EU's packaging reduction targets, which call for a gradual reduction of 15 percent by 2040, unattainable, warns the IK. Discriminating against plastic would also harm the circular economy and the reusable targets envisaged in the EU Commission's draft. In the association's view, reusable plastic packaging could make a meaningful contribution to packaging reduction, for example in wholesale and retail, out-of-home catering or mail order. "But it does need to be looked at closely, because reusable is not always the more ecological choice compared to single-use - on this point, too, policymakers must proceed without prejudice if they do not want to engage in symbolic politics," warns Isabell Schmidt, managing director of circular economy at the IK. The draft EU Packaging Regulation also provides for numerous ecologically unjustified exemptions for fiber-based packaging in the reusable quotas, in which discrimination against plastic is evident according to IK. "Where reusable packaging is to be promoted for environmental reasons, there must be no blanket exemptions for certain types of material, otherwise it will just be one single-use product being replaced by another," warns Schmidt. In the association's view, the EU's environmental goals can only be achieved through fair ecological competition between all materials. According to the IK, the replacement of plastic is not conducive to achieving these goals, as every material leaves an ecological footprint.

Further information: to download the GVM-study (in German)


  • Pressrelease IK (June 2, 2023)
  • (June 6, 2023)
  • Photo: © IK

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