European Sustainability Simmering for All

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

The European Commission is turning up the heat on its sustainability policies, so the rest of the world should take note since it will affect international trade. We heard about the EU’s Product Carbon Footpring (PCF) and Organisational Carbon Footprint (OCF) earlier this year. Neither are regulations yet and both essentially echo existing ISO standards. However the EU feels PCF and OCF are needed because “the alternatives existing were not suitable to achieve our political objectives (clearer, more reliable, verifiable and comparable information on the environmental performance of products and companies reporting)”. This is what Dr Michele Galatola of the EU has told us, but we aren’t convinced. 

These initiatives, plus the EcoLabel, are all voluntary but they will be reviewed periodically to see if they should be turned into regulations. This may be why the EU seems to marginalise ISO standards. These initiatives will impact printing businesses in Europe and other parts of the world. It’s creeping up on us and the printing industry should be adding more to the discussions.

On the 27th May the EU is hosting a Sustainable Industry Forum at the European Commission in Brussels. “Treating Waste as a Resource” is the theme and participants, including industry and policy makers, are invited to help develop ideas for how waste can be exploited to provide raw materials and employment through business and market development. The results of an EU study “Treating Waste as a Resource for EU Industry: Analysis of various waste streams and the competitiveness of their client industries” will also be presented and discussed.

Waste management is already pretty sophisticated in Europe with over 70% of paper entering the recycling chain. However, if the goal is jobs and growth within the context of sustainability, the biggest problem is lack of knowledge and lack of awareness of how one man’s waste is another man’s raw material. The Sustainability Forum should really be a grass roots initiative, not a collection of self-interested talking heads.

Printers are good at exploiting the potential of waste as a resource: silver recovery from film, recycling aluminium and paper, and so on. But they need better understanding of how to use resources, human and otherwise, efficiently so that there is less waste in the first place. The paper industry has already taken massive steps to turn waste into resources and to capture more carbon. The EU might want to consider such efforts in the context of its environmental efforts for growth. 

Much EU environmental work borrows heavily from other efforts and is arguably redundant; unless the EU wants a foundation for future regulation. The Sustainable Industry Forum is supposedly about industrial symbiosis, remanufacturing and reuse. Hopefully it will also provide insights into where the lines between voluntary and regulatory requirements should be drawn. If you want to participate in the Forum there are 80 places, awarded on a first come first served basis:

– Laurel Brunner

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