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Can Cheese Packaging Be More Sustainable? European Lawmakers Think So.

Those traditional round wooden boxes may need to go. 

Rhian de Kerhiec/Flickr

The European Union envisions a more sustainable future. And that means, according to a proposed law, wooden cheese boxes must go. 

These new rules fit into a larger framework set by the EU to reach its sustainability goals of reducing packaging waste by 2030. One of the most notable varieties of fromage impacted by this? The soft and creamy Camembert de Normandie—a French staple since 1791—which is easily spotted by its round wooden box. Producers of the iconic cheese plan to lobby against this proposed regulation, initially introduced in November 2022. 

That’s because the Camembert producers believe the proposed regulation will be too costly to implement and threaten their protected geographical indications (PGI). And as a result, potentially harm their businesses and livelihoods. 

The revision to the 1994 Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste proposed in 2022 by the European Commission is part of a larger sustainability initiative. For the EU to reach its goals, an overhaul of the packaging life cycle is underway, including labeling, producer responsibility, collection, treatment, and recycling, reports the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“European citizens are eager to be rid of overpackaging and unnecessarily bulky packages, and businesses are ready to move forward with sustainable, innovative packaging solutions and systems,” says Frans Timmermans, EU Commission Vice President for the Green Deal, in a USDA report

The European Commission expresses that these regulations aren’t meant to threaten the final taste of cheeses like Camembert and instead encourage producers to use more sustainable packaging. According to a French newspaper, Le Figuero, the proposed changes would replace the original box with recycled plastic. Producers reject these potential rules and fear that this new packaging won’t provide breathability to their soft cheeses, known for sweating. 

In a final push for Camembert producers to receive an exemption from this proposed regulation, they’re calling on lawmakers to release a report detailing the environmental benefits of recycling their wooden boxes. According to the USDA, the following steps involve a lengthy procedure to cement a path forward. From start to finish, the legislative process can take between 18 months to two years before a final decision is made.


Ashia Aubourg

Ashia Aubourg is culture's Assistant Digital Editor. She received her BA in Food Studies and Policy Studies from Syracuse University, where she researched components that make up equitable food systems. She previously held print and digital roles at Food & Wine, Cuisine Noir, America's Test Kitchen, and others, where her writing unearthed underrepresented narratives within food, travel, and culture. Before starting her writing career, she held food policy and social impact roles across various nonprofits and companies. Ashia currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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