EU agreement to treat packaging

The countries of the European Union agreed days ago on a common position to maintain final negotiations to deal with packaging with the European Parliament in view of the new Regulation on Packaging and Packaging Waste, whose objective is to gradually reduce its amount in everyday products.

This approach, agreed by European environment ministers at a meeting in Brussels, includes the "complete packaging life cycle" and establishes requirements to ensure that "packaging is safe and environmentally friendly, requiring that all packaging be recyclable and that the content of foreign substances be minimized"said the Council of the EU in a statement.

The position supported by the Member States refers to treating packaging and managing it after it becomes waste so that it is collected, sorted and recycled according to the "highest standards", with regulations requiring countries to be "flexible enough to keep existing systems running well".

"In 2021, each European will generate 190 kg of packaging waste. And this figure will increase by almost 20% between now and 2030 if the situation does not change (…). This regulation is important on the path towards a circular economy and a climate neutral Europe”, stated Teresa Ribera, head of the Spanish Foundation for the Ecological Transition, in a statement on behalf of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The objective is that the Member States and the European Parliament can reach an agreement before the European Parliament elections in June 2024 on the definitive modernization of the document, full of technical aspects, which has aroused great interest on the part of groups of Pressure (lobbies) because it affects many sectors and companies, from fast food to plastic, paper, wood and recycling, has caused particular concern in Italy and Finland.

Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius said the European Commission, whose initial proposal was more ambitious than the positions defended by the EU Council and Parliament, had called for a "equilibrium"to put closure to a"complicated file"."No one should accept that waste and packaging are growing faster than GDP", after establishing a new "record” growth of 6% last year.

Treat packaging from design

The Council said that the proposal applies to treating packaging of all types, regardless of the materials used, and all packaging waste, regardless of its origin (industrial, manufacturing, retail or domestic).

The content of the text on the "general guidelines"to treat packaging of the capitals maintains"the majority of sustainability requirements for all types of packaging currently on the market and the main objectives proposed by the Commission", while strengthening the requirements for substances "worrying".

The countries ask the Commission to issue a report "before 2026" to determine if containers contain substances of concern that could "negatively affect the reuse or recycling of materials"or"affect chemical safety".

Member States also agreed that packaging will be considered recyclable."if they are used as recyclable material and when packaging waste can be collected, sorted and recycled on a large scale": the conditions will apply from 2035.

For example, among the many sections of the standard, the Council states that "tea bags and fruit and vegetable labels must be biodegradable", giving member states the option to require other types of packaging, such as coffee capsules or lightweight plastic bags, to also be biodegradable.

They also support restrictions to treat certain containers, such as single-use plastics for fruits and vegetables, foods and drinks, spices and sauces in restaurants and in small cosmetic and hygiene products offered in accommodation, although some exceptions are allowed.

treat packaging

Less packaging

Countries also want to set targets for packaging to contain a minimum amount of recycled plastic by 2030 and 2040, with a mid-term review by the Community Director in 2034.

In addition, manufacturers and importers will have to reduce packaging "unnecessary" by 5% by 2030 compared to 2018, by 10% by 2035 and by 15% by 2040, and the Commission will implement audits every 8 years.


Countries have adopted the Commission's approach of defining "reusable containers introducing a minimum number of uses or rotations during use, with a lower minimum number of rotations than in the case of cardboard due to the different properties of this material".

It also proposes targets for 2030 and 2040 with different scales for large household appliances, food and takeaway packaging, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (except wine), transport packaging (excluding packaging used for dangerous goods or large equipment and flexible packaging in direct contact with food products) and grouped packaging.

Cardboard is exempt from these requirements, depending on the country location.

Bottles and cans

The countries' approach also aims to guarantee the selective collection of "at least 90% of single-use plastic bottles and metal beverage containers per year" by 2029, while introducing a deposit return system.

The Twenty-seven also want to tighten the rules on packaging labeling. The environmental organization Zero Waste Europe represents an "improvement" of the position supported by the European Parliament.

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