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EU backs new packaging rules as Plastics Europe bemoans ‘missed opportunity’

Members of European Parliament voted yesterday (22 November) to adopt new rules on reducing, reusing and recycling packaging within the European Union.

The council agreed to a general approach and now the regulations have to be approved by Parliament and the council(picture: Shutterstock)

MEPs passed the report, establishing Parliament’s directive for discussions with EU governments, garnering 426 votes in favour, 125 against, and 74 abstentions.

Policies include the setting of specific targets to reduce plastic packaging (10% by 2030, 15% by 2035 and 20% by 2040).

MEPs also want to ban the sale of “very lightweight plastic carrier bags” (below 15 microns), unless required for hygiene reasons or provided as primary packaging for loose food to help prevent food wastage. They also propose to heavily restrict the use of certain single use packaging formats, such as hotel miniature packaging for toiletry products and shrink-wrap for suitcases in airports.

Other policies include MEPs a rule that 90% of materials contained in packaging (plastic, wood, ferrous metals, aluminium, glass, paper and cardboard) is collected separately by 2029.

Research

The European Commission highlighted its research which indicates that the total amount of packaging waste in the EU surged from 66 million tonnes in 2009 to 84 million tonnes in 2021. In 2021, each individual in Europe generated an average of 188.7 kg of packaging waste. Projections suggest that this figure might rise to 209 kg by 2030 if no further measures are taken to address this issue.

The report outlines the European Union’s strategy toward packaging management. It includes objectives to tackle packaging waste, particularly focusing on plastic reduction by setting specific targets for 2030, 2035, and 2040.

Action

Rapporteur Frédérique Ries from Renew Europe Group said: “Recent events in Europe, and particularly in Belgium, concerning water pollution by PFAS chemicals show the urgent need for action. By voting to ban “forever” pollutants in food packaging, the European Parliament has shown that it seeks to protect the health of European citizens. Regarding plastics, the contract has been fulfilled, since my legislative report tackles the heart of the issue by setting tougher waste reduction targets for plastic packaging.

“Unfortunately, on the circular economy, and prevention in particular, the outcome of the plenary vote is not so positive and ignores the reality of the figures: a 30% increase by 2030 if we don’t act now. Of the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), only recycling escaped unscathed. The end of throwaway packaging is still a long way off!”

‘Missed opportunity’

The adoption of these rules has not been received well by  Virginia Janssens, managing director of the trade body Plastics Europe. The association said it has close to 100 members producing over 90% of all polymers across Europe.

She said: “The Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation is one of the most important elements of the plastics transition enabling framework. So, although Plastics Europe welcomes a number of decisions taken by the European Parliament, we believe today’s Plenary vote was a missed opportunity to strengthen this critical piece of regulation and create the incentives for the huge investments needed to make plastics packaging circular.”

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