Freshfel Europe, a body that represents fresh produce trade across the continent, has called on decision-makers to enact 'sustainable and functional harmonised packaging rules' for fresh fruit and vegetables in the EU.
The organisation believes that the ban on all single-use packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables in the current proposal is disproportionate and discriminatory in comparison to other food sectors.
Freshfel emphasised the need to focus on science-based solutions in supporting the move towards a more circular and sustainable supply chain, including packaging types and materials.
On 30 November, the European Commission released its proposal for a regulation on packaging and packaging waste, which includes a ban on single-use plastic packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables in packs of less than 1.5kg.
No other food categories have been specifically targeted in the regulation, according to Freshfel.
Philippe Binard, Freshfel Europe general delegate commented, "The fresh fruit and vegetable sector is committed to enhancing the category’s sustainability to help reach the EU’s climate neutrality target by 2050. We have proven this through our long use of reusable pallet pool systems and recent investments such as in-home compostable labels.
"EU packaging rules must reflect the sector’s needs to use functional and the most environmentally beneficial packaging to provide high quality and safe products to EU consumers for healthy, sustainable diets, without any unintended consequences such as food waste”.
The organisation welcomed the exemption of the ban on fruit and vegetables that need it to avoid water loss or turgidity loss or are at risk of microbiological hazards or physical shocks.
However, it highlighted that the proposal does not offer a list of exact products, or define how these aspects should be demonstrated.
It also supported the mandate on the use of industrially compostable fresh produce labels with a two-year transition period.
Nicola Pisano, director of sustainability at Freshfel Europe, added, "The proposal is an opportunity to reduce trading complexities resulting from the current divergent national implementation of the Single-Use Plastics Directive, but this should not equate to extending the scope of that Directive.
"In the Regulation process, policymakers must examine packaging requirements through life cycle analysis per product to achieve truly sustainable and circular solutions. We are looking for a high level of harmonisation in the proposal, including technical details, to avoid further operational complexities hindering sustainability objectives."