The European Green Deal: End packaging waste, promote reuse and recycling.


The proposed revision of EU legislation on packaging and packaging waste has three main objectives.
First, prevent the generation of packaging waste: reduce the amount of packaging waste, limit unnecessary packaging, and promote reusable and refillable packaging solutions.
Second, promote high-quality (“closed loop”) recycling: by 2030, enable all packaging on the EU market to be recycled economically.
Finally, to reduce the demand for primary natural resources and create a well-functioning market for secondary natural raw materials, increase the use of recycled plastic in packaging through mandatory targets.
The overall target is to reduce packaging waste per capita by 15% in each member state by 2040 compared to 2018, with a comprehensive EU waste reduction of around 37% without changing legislation. And this will be achieved through reuse and recycling.
To promote the reuse or refill of packaging, which has declined dramatically over the past 20 years, companies must offer consumers a percentage of their products in reusable or refillable packaging, such as takeaway drinks and meals or e-commerce delivery.
There will also be standardizing of some packaging formats and clear labeling of reusable packaging.
Specific forms of packaging will be banned to address unnecessary packaging, such as single-use packaging for food and drink consumed in restaurants and cafes, single-use packaging for fruit and vegetables, miniature shampoo bottles, and hotel packaging—other micro packages.
Several measures aim to make packaging fully recyclable by 2030. This includes developing packaging design standards, establishing mandatory deposit refunds for plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and clarifying which minimal packaging types must be compostable so consumers can throw them in biowaste.
Manufacturers must include a mandatory tax rate on recycled content in new plastic packaging. This will help turn recycled plastics into valuable raw materials – as the example of PET bottles in the context of the Single-Use Plastic Directive shows.
Clearing up the confusion surrounding bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics
The use and production of bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics has been steadily increasing. These plastics must meet certain conditions to have a positive environmental impact rather than contribute to plastic pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss.
The Commission's new framework shows how these plastics can be part of a sustainable future.
The biomass used to produce bio-based plastics must be sustainably sourced, not harmful to the environment, and comply with the “graded use of biomass” principle: producers should prioritize using organic waste and by-products as raw materials.
Additionally, to combat greenwashing and avoid misleading consumers, producers must avoid using generic claims for plastic products, such as "bioplastic" and "biobased." When communicating about biobased content, manufacturers should refer to an accurate and measurable proportion of the biobased plastic content in the product (e.g., "The product contains 50% biobased plastic content").
Biodegradable plastics must be treated with caution. They have a place in a sustainable future but must be directed to specific applications to demonstrate their environmental benefits and circular economy value. Biodegradable plastic should never be a license to litter. Additionally, they must be labeled to show how long they take to biodegrade, under what conditions, and in what environment. Products likely to be littered, including those covered by the Single-Use Plastics Directive, cannot claim or be labeled as biodegradable.
Industrial compostable plastics should only be used if they provide environmental benefits, do not negatively affect the quality of the compost, and there is an appropriate biowaste collection and treatment system. Industrial compostable packaging is only allowed for tea bags, filter coffee pods and pads, fruit and vegetable stickers, and very lightweight plastic bags. Products must always state that they are certified for industrial composting according to EU standards.