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Ponderings From Across the Pond

Last week in London, FPI held it eighth joint meeting with our “sister” association, Pack2Go Europe. Since 2001, our two groups have come together every two years to discuss, in a nutshell, the challenges and opportunities both sides of the pond are facing.

Two common themes over the years have been the regulatory challenges and market opportunities. When it comes to regulation, we’ve seen the threats pop up in Europe first, travel to Canada and eventually make their way to the United States. Extended producer responsibility (a topic I presented on in London) is a great example, and the next thing brewing on both horizons is the notion of a circular economy, as shared by Pack2Go’s Gregory Ruessmann.

But the regulatory challenges addressed in London weren’t just limited to legislative concerns. Several speakers, including Hazel O’Keefe from Keller and Heckman; Laurent Ruessmann of FieldFisher; and Mike Turner with International Paper Foodservice Europe, shed light on different and perhaps soon to be converging compliance requirements for the packaging supply chain – and the importance of adhering to these stringent requirements.

On the market opportunities front, we’ve typically seen foodservice trends start on our side of the pond and travel to Europe. The spread of American chains across Europe and foodservice growth drivers were topics discussed by Horizons’ Peter Backman at our meeting. Perhaps more interesting for the Americans in attendance was the growth of the foodservice industry in Europe, dominated by just five countries: France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK. Blogger and packaging engineer Anton Steeman provided more food for thought in the trends arena, asking attendees to consider future packaging needs given changing foodservice venues like vending machines (not sure I’m ready for a fine dining meal out of a vending machine, but time will tell!). 

London also provided a natural (and timely) backdrop to consider how changing politics and economics in the UK and the broader European Union will impact the North American and European foodservice packaging industries. Presentations by Dr. Leila Simona Talani of King’s College London, Fabian Zuleeg from the European Policy Centre and University of Nottingham’s Dr. Matthew Goodwin painted an interesting picture of a changing UK and Europe as a whole.

The topic of the UK and its future in the European Union was covered by a compelling keynote speech by Laura Sandys, former Member of the UK Parliament. It was certainly a highlight of the two day meeting, and of course, it didn’t hurt that her speech took place in the great “Painted Hall” at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich!

To bring things full circle, two drivers of anti-foodservice packaging legislation and regulation were addressed: recovery and litter. Case in point: David Schisler’s presentation on legislation looming in France. It was clear that proactive efforts to increase the recovery of packaging and decrease the amount of it that ends up as litter or marine debris were needed. Examples were shared by former Pack2Go Europe President Tony Waters (describing the Clean Europe Network), INCPEN’s Jane Bickerstaffe (touting the benefits provided by all packaging) and Natha and me (highlighting FPI’s recovery groups and outreach to groups like Keep American Beautiful, Ocean Conservancy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

In the end, we realized the two sides of the pond are not so very different – and that working together might help us better address our common challenges and opportunities. Stay tuned!

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 6/10/2015 11:27:29 AM
 

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