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Nenad Đurđević, Ball Packaging Commercial Director SEE, Turkey and CIS; President of the Alliance for Circular Packaging of Serbia

Ball je posvećen održivosti

Ball Packaging Europe is a leader in the production of aluminium packaging. With annual production exceeding a billion units, as much as 50 per cent is exported to around 20 countries worldwide

Increasing the percentage of packaging material that’s recycled represents an imperative that is today defined in the EU through a series of laws regulating the management of packaging waste. We spoke about this with Ball’s Nenad Đurđević, as well as discussing the circular economy, deposit-refund systems and the company’s future plans.

Ball Packaging Europe is a leader in the production of aluminium packaging and represents one of Serbia’s biggest exporters. Are you also among the biggest advocates of the principles of circularity and recycling?

— That’s right. Ball Packaging Europe is a leader in the production of aluminum packaging. Our annual production exceeds billions of units, and even 50 percent is exported to around 20 countries around the world.

Export is not only a confirmation of the quality of our product, but it is also of great importance for foreign trade exchange of our country. At the same time, we are also strengthening the network of domestic suppliers, which all contribute directly to the budget of the Republic of Serbia.

Since Ball Corporation opened its Belgrade factory and launched operations in Serbia back in 2005, the principle of sustainability and circularity has been one of the key postulates forming the basis of our operations and business. Ball Corporation, within the scope of which our Belgrade factory operates, published a climate transition plan in 2023 that is based on a scientifically grounded decarbonisation plan with the goal of achieving critical reductions in CO2 emissions by 2030 and zero emissions prior to 2050. This plan adheres to UN guidelines related to decarbonising economies in order to halt rising global temperatures.

Our export results don’t only confirm the quality of our product, but are also extremely important for our country’s foreign trade exchange. We are simultaneously strengthening our network of domestic suppliers, all of which contributes directly to boosting the budget of the Republic of Serbia.

Every other beverage can in the shops has been recycled at least once and comes from Ball Packaging. What does this fact say about your attitude towards sustainable development, circularity and recycling?

— That fact confirms our determination to operate responsibly, by taking care of the environment and applying sustainability and circularity standards. This is also supported by the fact that, globally, Ball Corporation reached an average of 70% recycled content in beverage packaging produced during 2023. Around 76% of aluminium cans produced in Europe are currently recycled, while our end goal is for that to be 100%, as aluminium is a material that can be recycled an infinite number of times with minimal losses.

The Circular Packaging Alliance, of which your company was among the founders, has vast experience and accounts for around 65% of the Serbian packaging market. Is it realistic to expect to increase the percentage of recycling and circularity?

— The companies comprising the Circular Packaging Alliance – Alpla, the Serbian Glass Factory, Greiner Packaging, Tetrapak, Ball Packaging and Smurfit-Kappa – have great knowledge and experience when it comes to recycling, sustainability and circularity. That’s precisely why we decided to take a joint approach in order to contribute to the adopting of good systemic solutions that will have a positive long-term impact on environmental protection, packaging industry operations and the recycling industry. All three segments are inextricably linked and we view them as a whole.

Increasing the percentage of recycled material in produced packaging isn’t merely something we should hope for and expect, but rather represents an imperative that is today defined in the EU through a series of legal solutions relating to the management of packaging waste, and the Republic of Serbia is also preparing a regulation, or rather a law that should resolved the issue systemically.

Around 76% of aluminium cans in Europe are currently recycled, while our end goal is for that to be 100%, as aluminium can be recycled an infinite number of times

Serbia has opted to follow the EU’s recommendations in the environmental protection field, and they envisage 85% of cardboard and paper waste, 75% of glass, 60% of aluminium and 55% of plastic waste being recycled by 2030. If these new solutions prove unfavourable for any of these materials, entire production capacities could be threatened.

The companies forming the Alliance are dedicated to the principles of circularity, as confirmed by the goals set for 2030. In concrete terms, Ball Corporation plans to be recycling 90% of the aluminium cans it produces by the deadline set, and for the rate of new product recycling to reach as much as 85% on all markets where Ball operates.

What do you think is needed to meet the standards recommended by the EU?

— In the opinion of the Alliance for Circular Packaging, reaching the amounts outlined requires focusing on collecting waste from citizens, as well as adding to the existing extended producer responsibility (EPR) system a deposit-refund system (DRS) for all single-use packaging made from metal, plastic, glass and multilayered cardboard, all of which bring high percentages in recycling. Introducing a DRS would help collect approximately 90% of this type of waste within three years of the start of implementation, doubling current recycling rates. This is a very important issue for Serbia. Alongside the ecological aspect, which is the priority, there is also an economic aspect. I consider it crucial for Serbia’s new regulations and laws on the management of packaging waste to follow the model of EU legislation, because that’s the only way for domestic products (producing packaging in Serbia) to continue to be competitive on other markets.

You announced late last year plans to increase the capacity of your Zemun factory by 30 per cent. What do you expect from that?

— Investing in the Belgrade factory, with the introduction of another production line, will bring growth and improved results, as well as contributing to strengthening our position on both domestic and foreign markets. Ball invests continuously in its Belgrade factory, while this investment serves to confirm that Ball Packaging has been operating successfully over the previous 19 years and that the company has recognised the potential of the Belgrade factory, as well as the entire team composed of our employees.

Is citizen awareness regarding the importance of recycling spreading quickly enough? Is the public aware that properly disposing of and processing packaging saves on raw materials?

— I believe that awareness of the importance of a healthy environment, clean water and air, and reduced waste, is increasing among citizens. This is no longer an abstract topic, but rather something that has a direct impact on quality of life, and it is natural for citizens to pay ever more attention to this area.

When it comes to the proper disposal of packaging waste, I’m certain that introducing a deposit system that implies refunding money for each returned package would contribute to people better understanding that used packaging is not waste, but a resource; something that can be exchanged for money and shouldn’t end up dumped at a landfill site or in nature.

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