Packaging Regulation: European Council and Parliament reached an agreement

(Picture European Parliament internet website)

The European Council presidency and the European Parliament representatives reached a provisional political agreement on a proposal for a Regulation on packaging and packaging waste to make packaging more sustainable and reduce packaging waste in the EU.

The text of the provisional agreement maintains most of the sustainability requirements for all packaging placed on the market and the headline targets proposed by the Commission. It strengthens the requirements for substances in packaging by introducing a restriction on the placing on the market of food contact packaging containing per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) above certain thresholds. To avoid any overlap with other pieces of legislation, the co-legislators tasked the Commission with assessing the need to amend that restriction within four years of the date of application of the regulation.

The provisional agreement maintains the 2030 and 2040 headline targets for minimum recycled content in plastic packaging. The co-legislators agreed to exempt compostable plastic packaging and packaging whose plastic component represents less than 5% of the packaging’s total weight from those targets. The Commission will have to review the implementation of the 2030 targets and assess the feasibility of the 2040 targets. The agreement also calls on the Commission to assess, three years following the entry into force of the regulation, the state of technological development of bio-based plastic packaging and, on the basis of that assessment, to lay down sustainability requirements for bio-based content in plastic packaging.

The text sets new binding re-use targets for 2030 and indicative targets for 2040. The targets vary depending on the type of packaging used by operators: alcoholic and non‑alcoholic beverages (excluding wine and aromatised wines, milk and other highly perishable beverages), transport and sales packaging (excluding packaging used for dangerous goods or large-scale equipment and flexible packaging in direct contact with food) and grouped packaging. Cardboard packaging is also generally exempted from those requirements.

The agreement introduces a general renewable five-year derogation from the attainment of the re-use targets under specific conditions, including that: the exempting member state exceeds by 5 percentage points the recycling targets to be achieved by 2025 and is expected to exceed by 5 percentage points the 2030 recycling  targets; the exempting member state is on track to achieve its waste prevention targets; the operators have adopted a corporate waste prevention and recycling plans that contribute to achieving the waste prevention and recycling objectives set out in the regulation. The new rules also exempt micro-enterprises from attaining those targets and introduce the possibility for economic operators to form pools of up five final distributors to meet the re-use targets on beverages.

(Picture Andrei/AdobeStock
European Parliament internet website)

The co-legislators laid down an obligation for take-away businesses to offer customers the possibility of bringing their own containers to be filled with cold or hot beverages or ready-prepared food, at no additional charge. Additionally, by 2030, take-away activities must endeavour to offer 10% of products in packaging formats suitable for re-use.

Under the new rules, by 2029, member states must ensure the separate collection of at least 90% per annum of single-use plastic bottles and metal beverage containers. To achieve that target, they are required to set up deposit return systems (DRSs) for those packaging formats. The minimum requirements for DRS will not apply to systems already in place before the entry into force of the regulation, if the systems in question achieve the 90% target by 2029.

The co-legislators agreed to add an exemption from the requirement to introduce a DRS for member states if they reach a separate collection rate of above 80% in 2026 and if they submit an implementation plan with a strategy for achieving the overarching 90% separate collection target.

The new rules introduce restrictions on certain packaging formats, including single-use plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables, for food and beverages, condiments, sauces within the HoReCa sector, for small cosmetic and toiletry products used in the accommodation sector (e.g. shampoo or body lotion bottles), and for very lightweight plastic bags (e.g. those offered at markets for bulk groceries).

The provisional agreement will now be submitted to the member states’ representatives within the Council (Coreper) and to the Parliament’s environment committee for endorsement. If approved, the text will then need to be formally adopted by both institutions, following revision by lawyer-linguists, before it can be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force. The regulation will be applied from 18 months after the date of entry into force.