Proposal for a regulation on packaging and packaging waste – requirements for recyclability and reusability of packaging

23. 8. 2023

At the end of last year, the European Commission presented a proposal for a new packaging regulation, which brings with it requirements for the sustainability of packaging in terms of its recyclability, with the potential to increase recycling rates.

So far, the solution to packaging problems has been mainly associated with recycling. However, the draft regulation moves away from recycling towards strengthening re-use, i.e. the re-use of packaging, within the framework of the circular economy. The proposal sets a proportion of reusable packaging out of the total amount of packaging placed on the market. The reusable packaging system is thus intended to strengthen waste prevention.

Packaging shall be considered reusable if it meets the following conditions:

  1. it has been conceived, designed and placed on the market with the objective to be re-used or refilled,
  2. it has been conceived and designed to accomplish as many trips or rotations as possible in normally predictable conditions of use,
  3. it can be emptied or unloaded without damage to the packaging, which prevents its re-use,
  4. it is capable of being emptied, unloaded, refilled or reloaded while ensuring compliance with the applicable safety and hygiene requirements,
  5. it is capable of being reconditioned in accordance with Part B of Annex VI, whilst maintaining its ability to perform its intended function,
  6. it can be emptied, unloaded, refilled or reloaded while maintaining the quality and safety of the packaged product and allowing for the attachment of labelling, and the provision of information on the properties of that product and on the packaging itself, including any relevant instructions and information for ensuring safety, adequate use, traceability and shelf-life of the product,
  7. it can be emptied, unloaded, refilled or reloaded without risk to the health and safety of those responsible for doing so,
  8. it fulfils the requirements specific to recyclable packaging when it becomes waste set out in Article 6.

The proposal stipulates that any operator placing reusable packaging on the market must be part of a re-use scheme that complies with Annex VI of the Regulation setting out specific requirements for re-use schemes and for refill points.

When purchasing products through refilling, the consumer, the end user, must be informed of:

  1. the types of containers that can be used to purchase the products offered by refilling,
  2. hygiene standards for refilling,
  3. the health and safety responsibilities of the end-user with regard to the use of the containers referred to in point a)

The proposal sets a number of re-use and refill targets for different sectors and packaging formats. It will cover reusable packaging ranging from beverage bottles (wine, alcoholic and non-alcoholic) to takeaway packaging. The mandatory reuse target for individual packaging segments is set at between 5% and 30% by 2030, with stricter targets for individual segments from 2040. However, the proposal also provides for exemptions from this obligation.

Producers who place on the market no more than 1 000 kg of packaging will be exempted from the obligation to meet the packaging re-use targets.

The proposed targets for reusable transport packaging will also lead to major changes directly in producers’ business processes.

Reducing the use of primary raw materials

The Regulation also introduces a requirement for minimum recycled content in plastic packaging. This means that from 2030, the plastic part of the packaging must contain a specified minimum percentage of recycled content of recovered consumer plastic waste, in each unit of packaging. The introduction of this obligation is positive in terms of guaranteeing a demand for recyclates that does not depend on the availability and price of primary materials. However, the introduction of this requirement will require investment in new recycling technologies in order to ensure that the necessary recycled materials are available in sufficient quantities.

The methodology for calculating and verifying the percentage of recycled content in packaging is yet to be adopted.

The proposal is currently in the legislative process, where it must be examined by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

A new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation is expected to be adopted by 2024.

We will provide further information on the new rules contained in the proposal for a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation as we go along.

The proposal for a regulation on Packaging and Packaging waste can be found here.