The plastics packaging industry and the entire value chain should join efforts to protect the environment and make the circular economy a reality, according to Manfred Stanek, CEO of Austria-based Greiner Packaging.
“We only talk about the waste that has made its way to the ocean. That is of course very important but the problem is bigger. We are talking about emission, climate change and CO2 footprint. While we need to work on reducing plastic waste, we also need to ensure that the final solution is better than what we have today,” said Stanek opening the company’s 2019 innovation day on March 14.
Manfred Stanek opens Greiner's innovation day 2019 Reviewing the environmental developments over the past 14 months, Stanek said the European Union Strategy for Plastics, introduced in January 2018, was a positive development.
“We were all discussing bio-based, biodegradable and reusing resources in 2016 and 2017, but the strategy gave us a clear direction: the journey we are going to take is going to be towards recycling,” Stanek said.
The fast-paced development of the strategy, according to the Greiner boss, is likely to continue later this month, with the European Parliament expected to approve the Single-Use Plastics (SUP) directive at the end of the month.
“A lot of activities have taken place in the last 12 months. This is going to continue now as we have the European Union elections in May,” said Stanek.
Once approved by the EP plenary session, set for March 25-28, the EU environment ministers are then expected to endorse the directive during their meeting in Romania in May.
But according to Stanek, the political and legislative activities around sustainability of plastics has not stopped the industry from expanding.
“Last year we had record production, globally and in the European Union.
In Germany, plastics production grew to an all-time record of 14.8 million tonnes last year, a year-on-year increase of 2.6 percent, which is double the global GDP growth.
The dilemma for the industry is to deal with the criticism while meeting the higher demand.
The record production numbers, according to Stanek, are not likely to change, considering the global megatrends.
With the global population increasing at a rate of 7 million people per month, and an estimated 4.9 billion middle class population by 2030, packaging consumption is expected to increase, rather than decrease in the future.
Urbanization, personalization and e-commerce are other megatrends, which are to contribute to the growth of packaging industry in the future, according to Stanek.
All these, he noted, impose a special responsibility, particularly on the plastic packaging industry which he said was “in the middle of the turmoi,l” to deal with the challenges of environment and society.
“I think this is a very big challenge, but also something with which we can make an impact. We think that we can make this impact only if the entire value chain works together,” Stanek said.
“We need to step up to the plate and come up with a solution on how to make this transition [to a circular model],” said Stanek.
Based in Oberwaltersdorf, 30 minutes outside Vienna, Greiner is a family-owned packaging business with annual sales of 1.6 billion euros ($1.82 billion) per year.
The company has 130 locations worldwide and employs over 10,000.
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