European Commission logoTHE EUROPEAN COMMISSION is proposing new EU-wide rules on packaging, to tackle this constantly growing source of waste and of consumer frustration. On average, each European generates almost 180 kg of packaging waste per year.

Packaging is one of the main users of virgin materials: 40 per cent of plastics and 50 per cent of paper used in the EU is destined for packaging. Without action, the EU would see a further 19 per cent increase in packaging waste by 2030, and even a 46 per cent increase.for plastic packaging waste

The new rules aim to stop this trend. For consumers, they will ensure reusable packaging options, get rid of unnecessary packaging, limit overpackaging, and provide clear labels to support correct recycling. For the industry, they will create new business opportunities, especially for smaller companies, decrease the need for virgin materials, boosting Europe’s recycling capacity as well as making Europe less dependent on primary resources and external suppliers. They will put the packaging sector on track for climate neutrality by 2050.

The Commission is also seeking to bring clarity to consumers and industry on biobased, compostable and biodegradable plastics – setting out the applications for which such plastics are truly environmentally beneficial and how they should be designed, disposed of and recycled.

The proposals are key building blocks of the European Green Deal’s Circular Economy Action Plan and its objective of making sustainable products the norm. They also respond to specific demands of Europeans as expressed at the Conference on the Future of Europe, preventing packaging waste, boosting reuse and refill, and making all packaging recyclable by 2030.

The proposed revision of the EU legislation on Packaging and Packaging Waste has three main objectives. First, to prevent the generation of packaging waste: reducing it in quantity, restricting unnecessary packaging and promoting reusable and refillable packaging solutions. Second, to boost high quality (‘closed loop’) recycling: making all packaging on the EU market recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030. And finally, to reduce the need for primary natural resources and create a well-functioning market for secondary raw materials, increasing the use of recycled plastics in packaging through mandatory targets.

The headline target is to reduce packaging waste by 15 per cent per member state per capita by 2040, compared to 2018. This would lead to an overall waste reduction in the EU of some 37 per cent compared to a scenario without changing the legislation. It will happen through both reuse and recycling.

To foster the reuse or refill of packaging, which has declined steeply in the last 20 years, companies will have to offer a certain percentage of their products to consumers in reusable or refillable packaging, for example takeaway drinks and meals or e-commerce deliveries. There will also be some standardisation of packaging formats and clear labelling of reusable packaging.

To address clearly unnecessary packaging, certain forms of packaging will be banned: for example, single-use packaging for food and beverages consumed inside restaurants and cafes, single-use packaging for fruits and vegetables, miniature shampoo bottles and other miniature packaging in hotels.

* Source, and further details: European Commission