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European Parliament Adopted New Regulations to Make Packaging More Sustainable

On April 24, the European Parliament adopted new measures to make packaging more sustainable and reduce packaging waste in the EU.

The regulation, which aims to tackle ever-growing waste, harmonize internal market rules and promote the circular economy, was approved with 476 votes in favor, 129 against and 24 abstentions.

Reduce Unnecessary Packaging by Setting a Maximum Empty Space Ratio
The rules, which have been provisionally agreed on with the Council, include packaging reduction targets (5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040). These require EU countries to reduce, in particular, the amount of plastic packaging waste. To reduce unnecessary packaging, a maximum empty space ratio of 50% is set for grouped, transport and e-commerce packaging. Manufacturers and importers will also have to ensure that the weight and volume of packaging are minimized.

Certain single use plastic packaging types will be banned from 1 January 2030. These include packaging for unprocessed fresh fruit and vegetables, packaging for foods and beverages filled and consumed in cafés and restaurants, individual portions (for e.g. condiments, sauces, creamer, sugar), accommodation miniature packaging for toiletry products and very lightweight plastic carrier bags (below 15 microns).

To prevent adverse health effects, the text includes a ban on the use of so called “forever chemicals” (PFAS) above certain thresholds in food contact packaging.

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Encourage Reuse and Refill Options for Consumers
Specific 2030 reuse targets are foreseen for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages packaging (except e.g. milk, wine, aromatized wine, spirits), transport and sales packaging, as well as grouped packaging. Member states may grant a five-year derogation from these requirements under certain conditions.

Final distributors of beverages and take-away food will have to offer consumers the option of bringing their own container. They will also be required to endeavor to offer 10% of products in a reusable packaging format by 2030.

Setting Minimum Recycled Content and Recycling Targets
Under the new rules, all packaging (except for lightweight wood, cork, textile, rubber, ceramic, porcelain and wax) will have to be recyclable by fulfilling strict criteria.

Measures also include minimum recycled content targets for plastic packaging and minimum recycling targets by weight for packaging waste.

By 2029, 90% of single-use plastic and metal beverage containers (up to three liters) will have to be collected separately (via deposit-return systems or other solutions that ensure the collection target is met).

Rapporteur Frédérique Ries (Renew, BE) said, “For the first time in an environmental law, the EU is setting targets to reduce packaging, regardless of the material used. The new rules foster innovation and include exemptions for micro-enterprises. The ban on forever chemicals in food packaging is a great victory for the health of European consumers. We now call on all industrial sectors, EU countries and consumers to play their part in the fight against excess packaging.

Council needs to formally approve the agreement as well before it can enter into force.

In 2018, packaging generated a turnover of EUR 355 billion in the EU. It is an ever-increasing source of waste, the EU total having increased from 66 million tonnes in 2009 to 84 million tonnes in 2021. Each European generated 188.7 kg of packaging waste in 2021, a figure that is expected to increase to 209 kg in 2030 without additional measures.

By adopting this legislation, Parliament is responding to citizens’ expectations to build a circular economy, avoid waste, phase out non-sustainable packaging and tackle the use of single use plastic packaging, as expressed in proposals 5(1), 5(3), 5(4), 5(5), 11(1), 11(4) and 20(3) of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Source: European Parliament

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31