Tackling Packaging Waste Crisis: Key Measures in the EU’s Proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation

The European Union is seeing a rise in packaging waste, prompting the Council and Parliament to strike a provisional political agreement on a regulation for packaging and packaging waste. The agreement aims to make all packaging recyclable and minimize the presence of harmful substances.

Packaging Waste Increase and Proposed Measures

  • Packaging waste in the EU has increased by nearly 25% over the past decade, and it is estimated to rise by another 19% by 2030 without intervention. Specifically, plastic packaging waste is projected to increase by 46% by 2030.
  • The proposal, known as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), addresses the entire life cycle of packaging and is pending formal adoption by both institutions.

Main Points of the Agreement

  1. Reduction Targets

    • EU Member States are required to reduce packaging waste by 5% by 2030, followed by 10% by 2035, and 15% by 2040. Optional targets focus on plastic packaging waste.
  2. Collection, Recycling, Deposit Return Systems (DRS)

    • All packaging must be recyclable by 2030 and systematically recycled by 2035.
    • By 2029, at least 90% of packaging materials must be collected separately to maximize recycling. Member states must also ensure the separate collection of at least 90% of single-use plastic bottles and metal beverage containers, potentially through deposit return systems.
  3. Recycled Content

    • The agreement maintains targets for minimum recycled content in plastic packaging by 2030 and 2040, with exemptions for certain types of packaging.
  4. Bio-based Plastics

    • By 2027, the Commission will assess the technological development of bio-based plastic packaging and establish sustainability requirements for these solutions.
  5. Empty Space in Packaging

    • The rules aim to reduce unnecessary packaging by setting a maximum empty space ratio of 50% in grouped, transport, and e-commerce packaging.
  6. Single-Use Plastic Packaging

    • The agreement provides for the ban of single-use plastic packaging in the beauty sector by January 1, 2030, for small cosmetic and toiletry products used in the accommodation sector.
  7. Reusable Packaging

    • Binding levels of packaging reuse will be established for various sectors, including e-commerce, household appliances, drinks, and beer.
  8. PFAS

    • The provisional agreement strengthens requirements for substances in packaging by introducing restrictions on the placing of food contact packaging containing per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) above certain thresholds. However, the agreement does not address the ban on bisphenol-A, which will be covered in a separate text.

Next Steps

The provisional agreement will be submitted to the member states’ representatives within the Council (Coreper) and to the Parliament’s environment committee for endorsement. Once approved, the text will need formal adoption by both institutions before being published in the EU’s Official Journal and entering into force. The regulation will be applied 18 months after the date of entry into force.

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