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The global policy landscape

Reuse regulation is on the rise and becoming increasingly complex. Globally, policy makers are experimenting with a blend of consumption reduction mechanisms, financial incentives, and mandatory reporting targets. Root provides insights into regulations from around the world that aim to change economic and cultural systems from linear to circular.

This is the first article in the reuse + refill series, taken from the  Getting to the Root of Reuse and Refill ’23 report.

This new report reveals four other critical themes that brands must have on their radar. Click the link below to download the full report.

Reuse can exist as a stand-alone policy, but is often intertwined with other legislation, such as policy to reduce Single-Use Plastics where reuse serves as a key mechanism for reducing hard-to-recycle or commonly littered items.

Policymakers are accelerating action

The Global Plastics Treaty is a policy instrument under development by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and supported by global business leaders in the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty.
The current draft requires signatories to take effective measures to promote reduction, reuse and refill of plastic packaging. Our hope is that this will catalyse reuse legislation across global markets over the next five years and inspire action on reuse across all materials, not just plastic.
– In Europe:
We are currently anticipating critical updates regarding reuse targets in the proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, which are expected in the November plenary vote. The proposal includes reuse targets for 2030 and 2040 in high-impact sectors like beverage, e-commerce, and takeaway food. Lobbyists have been vigorously attempting to dilute these targets, while NGO’s have been working to protect them.
At the national level, countries such as the NetherlandsSwedenPoland, and others are following France and Germany by introducing legislation that mandates the on-the-go food and drink sector to provide reusable alternatives to key plastic items that cannot be substituted by fibre alternatives. In the UK, policy advisory groups are advocating for flexibility in competition laws to prevent barriers to scalability. Discussions are also underway to incorporate reusability as a metric for eco-modulation under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging.
– In the US:

State legislators view EPR and Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) as complementary policies. They are engaging with certain industries to exempt them from EPR on the condition that they establish a functional DRS for their packaging. These policies aim to utilise financial incentives, taxes, and EPR to achieve cost-parity with single-use items and increase consumer acceptance of reuse.

Categorise your store types to identify those better suited for a pilot, and consider how regional or cultural differences impact engagement.

Breaking down policy barriers

Regional and national policymakers implement various mechanisms, set different targets and establish different timeframes. This variability poses challenges for committed businesses aiming to invest in scalable, commercially viable solutions. Closer alignment of policies with more standardised mechanisms would help businesses operationalise reuse more easily. Realistic development timeframes for policies would enable better planning and reduce unnecessary stock write-offs. Moreover, providing improved, more accessible implementation guidance would offer valuable support to individuals and teams lacking experience and confidence.

Competition regulation

In certain markets, Competition Law serves as a barrier to collaboration and scalability. For instance, the UK Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has responded with draft guidance to encourage collaboration without violating competition law. However, further work is still required to reform regulation around competitive pricing. This would boost consumer uptake of reusables and allow smaller businesses to participate without incurring significant financial losses.

Numerous insightful reports have outlined ways policymakers can promote reuse, particularly by distributing responsibility throughout the supply chain. They emphasise the importance of setting targets for manufacturers, as well as final distributors to incentivise innovation.