On Tuesday September 18th, the fourth edition of the European ReUse Conference was held in Brussels. Organised by the European Federation of Associations of Beer and Beverages Wholesalers (CEGROBB), the Associations of Small and Independent Breweries in Europe (S.I.B.) and the German Environmental Aid (DUH), the conference’s main goal was to demand for a higher level of commitment for refillable beverage packaging. With Karl Falkenberg and Matthias Groote, EU institutions were well represented.

After a short introduction by Günther Guder, President of CEGROBB, the conference opened with a Keynote speech by Karl Falkenbeg MEP, Director-General Environment of the European Commission, who highlighted the importance of the waste hierarchy and the important role of reusable packaging in prevention, the highest form in the hierarchy. Jürgen Resch from DUH then gave some key facts and figures from the independent PwC-study (hyperlink) on different types of beverage packaging. Most importantly, refillables proved to be superior in all three pillars of sustainability. The next speaker was Mirco Wolf Wiegert, executive manager at Fritz-Kola. He showed how the new bottling plant, developed by Friedrich Lütvogt GmbH & Co. KG, made refillables even more attractive thanks to an exceptionally efficient design, saving over 43% of energy and 60% of fresh water compared to old filling plants. Roland Demleitner from S.I.B. closed the morning session with some figures from a brewery survey that clearly showed the benefits of refillables.

Matthias Groote MEP, Chair Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, started the afternoon session by assuring that the European Parliament has set priority to use measures higher in the waste hierarchy and will therefore support reusable packaging. However, when asked what legislation can be expected that is of interest to the beverage industry, he was quite vague. The session continued with Jürgen Resch from DUH, who warned for greenwashing scams associated with bioplastics. The last two speakers, Victor Mitjans-Sanz (Fundació Catalana per a la Prevenció de Residus I el Consum Responsible) and Georges Lentz (Brasserie Bofferding), shared their experience with promoting refillables in Spain and Luxembourg. Finally, Lütvogt GmbH & Co. KG received the 3rd European Refillable Award for its innovative bottling line.

Thanks to the presence of some critical voices, such as Bob Schmitz (Beverage Can Makers Europe), the conference provided a lively discussion about the advantages, disadvantages and future prospects of refillables. The general consensus though was a clear belief in the benefits of refillables and the need for further commitment.

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During the Pre-waste project, several good practices related to waste packaging prevention and in particular reuse have been identified. Some of these practices will be showcased during the Pre-waste final conference in Brussels, on 7 November, during the European Waste and Resource Days.