Webinar brings together fresh produce sustainability experts to discuss national packaging rules

Mandarins in cardboard packaging Adobe

Leading fresh produce sustainability experts gathered online on 21 October for Freshfel Europe’s webinar entitled ’National Packaging Legislation’.

According to Freshfel, the webinar brought to light the many difficulties the fresh fruit and vegetable sector is facing in navigating national packaging legislation across the EU as a result of divergent member state implementation of the Single Use Plastics Directive, as well as labelling issues linked to the Waste Framework Directive

The association said that the sector was increasingly frustrated that a lack of EU harmonisation in packaging rules on the single market is hindering sector sustainability efforts, both on an environmental and economic basis.

Freshfel called on EU institutions to ensure a higher level of European harmonisation in the ongoing revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

“Over the last two years implementation of differing national packaging legislation for fresh produce has created huge operational complexity on the single market, leading to higher costs for operators without delivering sustainability results,” Freshfel said.

“Freshfel Europe members affirmed that the situation must be resolved through EU harmonisation of packaging rules, especially through the ongoing revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC), so that the sector can achieve real steps in packaging sustainability.”

Unintended and unsustainable consequences throughout the supply chain resulting from divergent packaging legislation across Europe must be stopped, the association noted.

“The current operational complexities resulting from different packaging legislation in each country are not environmentally or economically sustainable,” said Laurent Grandin, Freshfel Europe interbranch committee president and president of Interfel. “One single market, one rule, should be the ethos of packaging legislation in the EU.”

Of increasing concern to fresh produce operators, Freshfel emphasised, was the discrimination in some national legislation towards the sector, which faces must shorter transition periods compared to other food sectors, detrimental effects on fresh fruit and vegetable quality and safety, as well as lack of policy coherence with other EU sustainability targets under the European Green Deal, such as food waste prevention.

With no proper impact assessments completed for national packaging rules, differing legislation is leading to costly operational complexities involving unsustainable practices.

“The fresh produce sector is frustrated by recent national packaging legislation impeding sector efforts and ambition to heighten sustainability,” noted Freshfel Europe director sustainability Nicola Pisano.

”Current rules requiring different packaging and labelling for each member state is leading to higher packaging waste and resources, this is neither environmentally nor economically beneficial and contrary to the objectives of EU legislation.

“The revision of Directive 94/62/EC must change this,” she added. ”The time to act is now, especially considering the current impetus to maintain food security in the Union.”