Published late last week, the proposed revisions to EU legislation on Packaging and Packaging Waste has been brought forward because the bloc has documented a significant increase in packaging waste and litter over the past two decades. Official figures for 2020 state that 35% of packaging waste was landfilled, littered or burned to generate energy-from-waste. “The need for change is obvious,” said Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius. “If we don’t stop these trends, the volume of plastic waste could increase by 46% by 2030. So clearly we need a systemic change.”
The new proposals are intended to reduce packaging production in the first instance, improve recyclability and scale the market for recycled content. The headline ambition is for EU member states to reduce packaging waste, on a per-capita basis, by 15% by 2040, against a 2018 baseline. Some packaging formats, such as packaging used to house beverages, will need to be made fully recyclable by 2030, under the proposals. The EU has stated that there will be applications for compostables that are not recyclable, but that these applications will be “extremely limited”. There will also be an overhaul of recycling labels to help boost recycling rates, with the same labels set to be used on all bins across the bloc.
The European Commission is set to produce design criteria for packaging that will lead to the phasing-out of unnecessary and hard-to-recycle components. These include miniature toiletries in hotels and disposable cups and cutlery used for dining in at restaurants and cafes. Additionally, the Commission will set out mandates that plastic packaging producers will need to include a certain proportion of recycled content within their packaging. The UK has already taken a similar move, taxing producers who fail to meet a 30% recycled content threshold. The EU has not yet proposed a threshold.