It cites blatant conflict of interest, a biased consultation process and failure to carry out proper impact assessment of proposed measures.
Conflict of interest
In its submission to the EU Ombudsman, the Association raises questions about the appointment of Eunomia, a British environmental consulting firm, as the Commission’s objective advisors in the consultation and policy development process around the EU Plastics Strategy. It did so because the consultancy had campaigned in its own right for a range of restrictive measures against single use packaging and other single use items. Eunomia did this over several years, immediately before being appointed as advisors to the Commission. Pack2Go Europe claims that the consultancy’s objectivity was entirely compromised, that the Commission must have known this and thus been aware of the associated conflict of interest.
At the same time that Eunomia was working with the Commission on proposals to restrict single use plastics in 2017, the Commission also paid the consultancy via the intermediary of NGO Seas at Risk to research and prepare an advocacy report on single use plastics and the marine environment, Pack2Go Europe says. The report was then used by Seas at Risk in the autumn of 2017 to lobby the Commission and other EU institutions at a crucial moment in the EU policy process.
“The dramatic step of complaining to the Ombudsman reflects the huge degree of frustration across the packaging value chain about the cavalier way the Commission has abandoned its tradition of developing policy on balanced, evidence-based analysis in favour of political expediency and media headlines,” says Mike Turner, managing director of Graphic Packaging International Foodservice Europe, and president of Pack2Go Europe. “It is surprising that the Commission employed as supposedly objective advisors a consultancy that was evangelical about its own policy views. It is shocking that the Commission then paid the same people to lobby it at the very moment that they were sitting together at the same table and drafting new EU policy together.”
Impact assessment process short-circuited
Furthermore it is said, the Commission went on to ignore its own rules on better regulation by rushing through a partial and inadequate impact assessment on the measures to be applied to specific products. In practice, the Commission carried out stakeholder consultation, a very partial impact assessment exercise and the legal drafting of the proposal all at the same time. The impact assessment appears to have been tailored to fit the policy decisions that had already been taken, notably by omitting to address some vital elements that might have mitigated some of the proposed measures.
As a result, the draft law proposes to ban some products and restrict access to a wide range of food & beverage service packaging and related items ( that are vital to guarantee food hygiene, to safeguard public health and to provide consumer safety for food and drinks consumed out of home and on-the-go. According to Pack2Go Europe the impact assessment includes no consideration of the impact of the proposal on these issues which are of vital concern to consumers, public health professionals and the food service industry.
“The impact assessment for the so-called plastic bags directive took 2 years to do properly and it was just one type of product,” observes Turner. “The proposed single use plastics directive will covers hundreds of product types. The impact assessment on this is totally inadequate. It misses out vitally important analysis that will result in consumers being put at risk.”
Pack2Go Europe also criticises the impact assessment’s analysis on the employment effects of the proposal, calling it “anecdotal and often based on conjecture with little or no clear factual evidence”. At no point did the Commission approach Pack2Go Europe – an association the Commission knows well – for information on the number and nature of manufacturing jobs in Europe. “We were flabbergasted to hear Vice-Presidents Timmermans and Katainen declare in public on multiple occasions that there are no European companies and no European jobs at risk,” says Turner, “The Commission falsely suggested one of our members was manufacturing its products for Europe in India. Our members manufacture in Europe and employ Europeans!”