Industry lobbying is creating a Circular Economy that is not 'fit for purpose'

By Lyndsey O'Connell

Before the PPWR negociations had wrapped up, both the European Parliament and the civil society organization Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) expressed concerns about the corporate lobbying around EU lawmaking.

According to reporting by Politico, Parliament President Roberta Metsola wrote in an internal email that the security department would open an investigation “on the behaviour and possible security breaches of interest representatives” pertaining to the drafting of the new packaging and packaging waste regulation.

At around the same time, CEO published an investigation into industry lobbying of the European Commission about the essential use concept.

The PPWR has been the most lobbied political process in the EU’s history.

MEP Mohammed Chahim accusation that lobbyists were following his colleagues into the toilet or entering their offices without permission ahead of a crucial vote in the Parliament in November, sent shockwaves around the Parliment. Lobbyists have to follow a code of conduct which includes a register of those allowed, and depending on the results of the investigation, the individuals could be removed from the register.

According to parliamentary members, the PPWR has become one of the most contested files in the last five years. The influence of corporate lobbying, particularly from industry giants like Coca-Cola and major players in the paper and cardboard manufacturing, such as Huhtamäki, and food retailers, such as McDonald's, has been unprecedented.

CEO delved into over 140 documents sourced from DG Environment and DG Grow, which detailed meetings and reports discussing the essential use concept with industry representatives from October 2020 to March 2023. After thoroughly examining these documents, the group distilled five key arguments presented by industry organizations to politicians, both publicly and privately, regarding the definition of essential use within the EU.

Chief among these is the idea of “safe use” – allowing the continued use of a substance if it can be demonstrated safe. However, CEO writes, “‘safe use’ is pretty much the system we have today, which is clearly not sufficiently protective.” This would avoid incorporating the precautionary principle into EU chemicals policy.

CEO suggests that the EU government “introduce a lobby firewall which, while permitting industry to submit evidence via open consultations and hearings, then protects policy-makers from further corporate lobbying so that they can take decisions that are truly in the public interests of health and environment.”

The European Parliments investigation is ongoing.