65% of packaging waste was recycled in 2020  © Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
65% of packaging waste was recycled in 2020 © Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

How tough new rules on packaging aim for 'systemic change'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
1 December 2022

The European Union is proposing tough new rules to cut packaging waste and increase recyclability.

Under the proposals member states will have to cut packaging waste by 15% per capita by 2040, compared to 2018.

Mandatory rates of recycled content in new plastic packaging will be introduced and there will be an aim that packaging is fully recyclable by 2030.

The measures will apply to domestic and imported products. “European and non-European producers would face the same requirements,” said the European Commission (EC).

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, said: “In 2020, 65% of packaging waste was recycled. This means that still 35% is incinerated, landfilled or even littered. This equals nearly 30m tonnes of materials lost. This is the problematic part of the packaging waste that we address today.

“If we don't stop these trends, the volume of plastic waste could increase by 46% by 2030. So we need systemic change.”

The EC said 40% of plastics and 50% of paper used in the EU went into packaging, while the amount of packaging waste has increased by more than 20% over the last decade.

The rules, which must be agreed by the European Parliament and the Council, would mean 10% of e-commerce packaging for transport will have to be reusable by 2030, and 50% by 2040. There will also be maximum allowed empty space in e-commerce packaging.

By 2030 20% of cold and hot beverages will have to be in containers that are part of a reuse system, and 80% by 2040.

“Retailers of beer, for instance, would have to sell 10% of their goods in refillable containers by 2030 and 20% by 2040,” said the EC.

“Applying all the measures in the proposal would bring GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from packaging in 2030 down to 43m tonnes, compared to 66m tonnes in the business-as-usual scenario.

“Water use would be reduced by 1.1m cubic metres. The costs of environmental damage for the economy and society would be reduced by €6.4bn relative to the baseline 2030.”

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