Europe intends to promote the material reuse and packaging recycling

20. 1. 2023

The following information is only a proposal of the European Commission, so the entire proposal must still pass the legislative process.

The European Commission has proposed new EU-wide rules on packaging. The aim of these rules is mainly to solve the problem of growing waste. Packaging is one of the main areas where originating materials are used in their production. If no action had been taken, Europe would have seen an increase in packaging waste by 19%, and plastic packaging in particular by up to 46% by 2030. That is why new rules were proposed to stop this increase.

The consumer will be able to choose reusable packaging, excessive packaging will be reduced and clearer labelling will be added to promote recycling. The new rules will reduce the need for originating materials, increase Europe’s recycling capacity and reduce dependence on primary sources. The new rules should lead climate neutrality by 2050.

In addition to these new rules, the Commission also clarified when compostable and bio plastics are environmentally friendly and specified how such plastics should be recycled and used.

The proposal to revise EU regulations on packaging and packaging waste is intended to meet 3 objectives:

  1. To reduce the amount of packaging waste generated.
  2. To promote recycling and achieve that all packaging in Europe can be recycled.
  3. To reduce the need to extract primary natural resources and increase the use of recycled plastics in packaging.

The main goal of the Green Deal is to reduce packaging waste per inhabitant by 15% by 2040, which would lead to a total waste reduction in Europe by approximately 37%. To promote the reuse or refilling of packaging, companies will have to offer some of their products in reusable and refillable packaging. Unnecessary packaging will be addressed by ban on single-use packaging (single-use food packaging in restaurants, single-use packaging of vegetables and fruits or other small packages in hotels, etc.). In addition, a share of recycled content to be incorporated into new plastic packaging by manufacturers will be established.

The proposal of the European Commission will also explain the ambiguities in the proper packaging recycling issue. All packaging will be labelled with clear information about the materials it is made of and the waste bin it belongs to. Waste bins will bear the same labels which will be uniform throughout Europe.

The measures stipulated in the proposal should lead to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from packaging from 66 million tons to 43 million tons. Water consumption will also be reduced by 1.1 million m3.

With the increased plastic reuse, over 600,000 new jobs are expected to be created by 2030, mostly in small and medium-sized enterprises. The measures should lead to financial savings, where a European could save €100 per year. However, this depends on the approach of individual companies.

In addition to the possible new obligations arising from the proposal on packaging and packaging waste, there will be a major change in turning the packaging directive into a regulation, which in practice means that once approved, the measures will apply automatically in all EU Member States.

Learn more about this topic here.