U.S. Delegation to Brussels Focused on Packaging and Packaging Waste in Food and Agriculture
Seemingly small changes can have a huge impact on all the layers of the food/ag supply chain. Farm Foundation was honored to recently be part of a U.S. delegation to Brussels for a series of meetings and tours aiming to create insight around packaging and packaging waste in food and agriculture. As part of the proceedings, Farm Foundation participated in a productive dialogue with members of European Parliament about the potential impact of the EU’s proposed Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation, which if enacted has implications for farmers and producers in the United States.
The U.S. Mission to the European Union and the European Food Forum coincided with the comment period for the EU’s proposed Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation. Additionally, at the end of May 2023, the second meeting of the United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) on an agreement to reduce plastic waste will be held in Paris.
The U.S. delegation included Andrew Stephens, senior policy advisor at USDA Foreign Agricultural Service; Chris Bradley, chief marketing, design and sustainability officer at Orora Packaging; Raghela Scavuzzo, associate director of food systems development at Illinois Farm Bureau; Rafael Auras, professor in the School of Packaging at Michigan State University; Celeste Chen, senior international trade specialist at the U.S. Department of Commerce; LaShonda Korley, director of the Center for Plastics Innovation; Martha King, Farm Foundation vice president of programs and projects; and Morgan Craven, Farm Foundation senior events manager.
Exploring Many Perspectives
Among a variety of activities, Farm Foundation and Packaging Europe hosted a public lunch dialogue, “The Future of Packaging: Innovations and Challenges in Advancing Sustainability” on sustainable packaging for Brussels representatives of consumer brands and the packaging industry. On May 3, Farm Foundation also hosted a reception at the European Parliament following the “US-EU Dialogue on Sustainable Packaging” event hosted by the European Food Forum and the United States Mission. The dialogue event provided “an opportunity for packaging engineers, academics, sustainability experts, and consumer and civil society representatives on both sides of the Atlantic to talk about opportunities and challenges in the transition towards a more sustainable future of packaging,” according to the event’s agenda.
The delegation also participated in a tour of the Greenyard Group’s fresh cut salad packaging facility to look at changes happening in consumer and transport packaging for produce and a tour of The Coca-Cola Company R&D near Brussels to learn about the multiple efforts happening to reduce single-use plastic waste.
“Whether it’s changing to tethered closures, reusable crates instead of corrugated boxes, compostable stickers, and so on, regulatory changes have big ripple effects not just on large companies but farmers and small businesses alike,” says Martha King, Farm Foundation vice president of programs and projects, noting that there is often a disconnect in understanding between scientists and policy makers when it comes to materials used in food packaging. “Changes to our food packaging need to not only be environmentally and economically sustainable, but safe and grounded in food and environmental safety research.”
A Broader Conversation on US-EU Food and Agricultural Trade
This delegation was part of a larger body of work Farm Foundation has embarked on pertaining to addressing challenges arising from the implementation of new regulatory mandates on sustainability and circular economy themes. “Practical Approaches to Circularity in US-EU Food and Agricultural Trade” is a multi-year initiative which will support the design, plan, and implementation of workshops and seminars to stakeholders, regulators, and policymakers on scientific and technical options as sustainability regulations affecting food and agricultural products arise.