Packaging waste: a huge problem for our planet

The environmental impact of single-use plastic packaging waste is huge. It’s estimated that around half of the plastic waste that ends up in our oceans comes from single-use packaging. It pollutes our seas, coastlines, rivers and waterways. Microplastics have been found in the most remote regions on our earth, in the deepest oceans and in the lungs of living human beings.

It’s shocking statistics like these that have led to a new and radical EU regulation to tackle plastic waste. The EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) aims to promote the circular economy and help decouple economic growth from natural resource use, fostering multi-use packaging models that also minimize waste.

Understanding the impact of the PPWR

By the end of 2024, the EU PPWR is scheduled to enter into force, setting off a reusable packaging revolution across the EU and beyond. The PPWR is so comprehensive that it will impact every member state and any international business that imports packaging or any kind of packaged products into the EU.

What does it mean for your business and the global fresh grocery supply chain? Our quickfire Q&A below will help you better understand its impact.

How will the PPWR affect you as a grower or retailer?

In a nutshell, you will have to switch to a certain proportion of reusable and recyclable packaging to meet the new EU PPWR targets by January 1, 2030. Keep in mind that a certain preparation time in conversions is needed; last-minute conversions should be avoided.

What is the PPWR?

It’s an EU regulation to reduce packaging waste and speed up the transition to a circular economy model for packaging in line with the European Green Deal. It harmonizes EU packaging rules, waste policies and reporting requirements. The regulation proposes measures to promote reusable packaging, minimize excess packaging and ban avoidable packaging for certain uses, such as specific types of single-use plastic packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables.

What are the main goals of the PPWR?

To set mandatory targets on reusable packaging

To reduce the use of single-use packaging

To enhance the traceability of packaging

To improve transparency in packaging

What can you do now to ensure you are ready before the PPWR hits?

The sooner you start the transition, the better. We recommend the following five-point plan to help you prepare for the PPWR in time.

Five-point PPWR plan

1. Start now! Take a proactive approach and draw up a plan for how to implement the types of packaging that can be reused many times over into your supply chain.

2. Understand the cost impact of reusable packaging and consider what would be the best option for you financially.

3. Prepare different strategies according to the kind of packaging you require. Are you looking at the primary packaging or the transport packaging?

4. Work together with companies who provide reusable packaging for your specific needs. It’s most likely to be more efficient and cost-effective for you to work with an international supplier of reusable packaging.

5. Consider the additional benefits that reusable packaging offers, such as the ability to implement track and trace systems as well as digital solutions that help you understand your customers and product flows better.

How can IFCO support you in fulfilling the demanding targets of the PPWR?

The EU is currently on a mission to drastically reduce packaging waste, but did you know that at IFCO we’ve been doing exactly that for more than 30 years?

As we are the pioneer in reusable packaging containers (RPC) for the fresh grocery supply chain, we are already experts in implementing sustainable packaging solutions. In fact, we have been on a global mission to tackle packaging waste since 1992! This puts us in an ideal position to support suppliers, growers, producers and retailers who need to make the rapid transition now from single-use-packaging models to a future-oriented circular business model. This is provided by our SmartCycle pooling system and digital innovations around track and trace and supply chain efficiency.

How does the IFCO circular model support the switch?

The circular economy principles of sustainability and reusability are at the core of the robust design of all IFCO RPCs and the IFCO SmartCycle. Our closed loop model focuses on eliminating waste on all levels and reducing the carbon footprint of producers, distributors and retailers.


Our RPCs already meet the reusability criteria of the PPWR. They are designed to be reused over many years and up to 120 times.


Our RPCs already meet the recyclability criteria of the PPWR. At end of service life, all IFCO RPCs are 100% granulated.

That’s how we create new long-lasting IFCO RPCs within our closed loop. What’s more, our model supports another core target of the PPWR, which is the mandatory inclusion of recycled waste in new packaging and the reduction of primary natural resources in production processes.


Our share-reuse-reduce model, the IFCO SmartCycle pooling system, supports the PPWR’s goal of making reuse of sustainable packaging the norm in the EU.

Our approach is primarily designed to significantly reduce CO2 emissions across the fresh grocery supply chain. In 2022 alone, with the help of our customers, IFCO saved in total more than 614,000 tons of CO2-e emissions along the fresh grocery supply chain, the equivalent of driving to the moon 8,900 times.


Thanks to our circular economy model for pooling reusable packaging containers, we will not be affected by the PPWR’s ban of certain single-use packaging.

That includes packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables, which is expected to come into force by 2030. We already comply with the future regulations.

Recommended links

If you’d like to take a deep dive into the new EU regulation and the benefits of reusable packaging, we can recommend the following resources: EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). The full text of the PPWR is available online Q&A on the PPWR

RPE: Reusable Packaging Europe

This is the European association that represents the interests of companies active in the area of reusable, including pooled, transport packaging systems. Follow the RPE organization on LinkedIn or explore their website for the latest on packaging trends.

Contact us

If you’d like to learn more about our circular model for packaging and how the proposed EU regulations may impact your business, we are here to support you.

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