Circular Economy / 28.05.2020

The United Nations assesses the environmental labelling of plastic packaging

The United Nations assesses the environmental labelling of plastic packaging

The United Nations Environment Programme has published a global study on plastic packaging labelling. The assessment of standards, labels and claims has revealed a diverse landscape of on-package consumer communications that contributes to a significant consumer confusion regarding the sustainability of plastic packaging. As a result, consumers are not able to make informed purchase deci­sions or correctly managing the disposal of the packaging and this situation hinders the transition to a circular economy.

The report highlights that it is needed to improve both definitions used in labels and claims on plastic packag­ing, and the standards that underpin them, as well as the design of consumer communications. It is pointed out that greater consistency is needed for terms that communicate information about recycled content or reusability intended to influence purchase decisions. Furthermore, terms that provide infor­mation on options for end of life disposal should be more attentive to real-life conditions (degradability, for instance), accessibility, and consumer understanding

The report also notes that environmental labelling is ultimately just a communication tool and cannot resolve by itself the global plastic pollution crisis. However, it can help educate consumers, urging them not to littering and guide them towards more sustainable consumption options.

Clearer communication of these sustainability efforts can help con­sumers make better purchase and disposal decisions. Consumers are only one element of the picture and companies, in addition to providing transparent and clear messages, must improve the design of plastic packaging in order to increase its recyclability and the percentage of recycled content, aligned with the circular economy objectives.

According to this, the PLASTIC SENSE Foundation has among its initiatives on circular economy for the PET tray value chain both certifications, ECOSENSE and RETRAY. The ECOSENSE certification has been providing traceability and transparency in the production processes that incorporate recycled PET since 2017 whereas the new RETRAY certification will provide a label to inform consumers about the recyclability and the recycled content of the thermoformed PET tray; it is expected to be launched  by the beginning of 2021.

If you are interested in learning more about ECOSENSE and RETRAY, sign up for the webinars that will take place in June:

Webinar ECOSENSE (Tuesday  2 June, 10:00h): Registration form  – agenda

Webinar RETRAY (Tuesday 9 June, 10:00h): Registration form  agenda

You can access the United Nations’ report “Can I recycle this?” here.