19 October 2017 by Hera Lorandos

Concerns raised over European packaging plan

The European packaging industry has called for the free movement of packaging and packaged goods within the EU to be safeguarded in the Circular Economy Package.

Concerns have been raised that a more national rather than EU-wide policy could have a detrimental effect, as EU policymakers are potentially supporting changes to packaging laws with a more local focus.

In a letter to EU policymakers, the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) and 126 other industry associations appealed to retain the Internal Market legal base of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD).

According to a statement by the associations, EU policymakers are considering changing the legal basis of the Directive as part of their forthcoming negotiations on revisions to the Circular Economy Package.

Re-nationalising

The body of 127 industry associations expressed their concern to the European Parliament, Council and Commission on “effectively re-nationalising” packaging policy in the near future, endangering the Internal Market for all packaged goods.

It is understood that the argument for the proposed changes is that they would to improve environmental standards.

But the associations argue that the changes will not result in higher standards, and instead “risks opening a Pandora’s Box of divergent national regulations” that will affect the free movement of packaged goods within the EU.

“We fully support high environmental protection standards and welcome the revision of the PPWD as an important milestone for raising the bar in terms of packaging and packaging waste management,” said Hans van Bochove, chairman of EUROPEN and Coca-Cola European Partners vice president of public affairs and government relations.

“But EU industries cannot achieve the objectives of the EU Circular Economy package without the Internal Market. More –and not less – EU wide harmonising measures will be needed for a Circular Economy in Europe.”

The letter stressed that before the PPWD, the differences in national rules on managing packaging and packaging waste resulted in “divergent levels of environmental requirements, an uneven playing field for businesses and a serious impediment to the Internal Market for goods”.

Significant harm

We shouldn’t fool ourselves that this is just a technical, legal question with no consequences,” said Martin Reynolds, Crown Europe, EUROPEN board member.

“It is a political choice about whether we want a proper Internal Market or not. Our answer is clear: we absolutely need a strong EU Internal Market, unhampered by regulatory trade barriers, to provide the necessary scale in supply chains, operations, investment and innovation for successful Circular Economy solutions.

“We hope that this unprecedented industry call will not remain ignored during the forthcoming PPWD inter-institutional negotiations”, he concluded.

Brexit

While it remains unclear what relationship the UK establishes with Europe, it is unknown what the impact of these changes to the Package will have on the UK, especially if the UK chooses to opt out of the single market.

Currently, the Directive requires products from non-EU countries to comply with single market harmonising measures when imported and traded in the EEA.

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