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Redraw of European Packaging Laws Progresses, Prioritising Reduction of Waste at the Source

The progression of the Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation through Committee Stage in the European Parliament will bring increased responsibility to producers and polluters, says MEP O'Sullivan

Today, the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted its position on a proposed regulation establishing sweeping new rules for packaging placed on the EU market. The Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) proposes a suite of measures to significantly reduce the amount of packaging waste generated in the EU, while at the same time making packaging more sustainable and improving waste management. MEP Grace O’Sullivan has acted as the Greens/EFA negotiator on this file in the European Parliament.

Among the measures that MEPs approved this morning are new reuse targets for key sectors like beverages, requirements for brands to use as little packaging as necessary, and restrictions on some unnecessary single-use packaging, for example on fruit and vegetables under 1kg.

All packaging placed on the EU market will have to be recyclable, while new recycled content targets for plastic packaging will provide a regulatory boost to ensure plastic becomes more circular and lowers the pressure that packaging places on resources. According to figures from the European Commission, 40% of plastic and 50% of paper is used for packaging.

MEPs also supported a ban on intentionally added PFAS and BPA, so called “forever chemicals”, in food-contact packaging. These substances are widely used to fireproof or waterproof packaging, particularly paper and cardboard food packaging, and have been associated with a range of adverse health effects.

The vote comes on the back of new figures released by Eurostat that show a record increase in packaging waste: In 2021, the EU generated 188.7 kg packaging waste per inhabitant, 10.8 kg more per person than in 2020, the biggest increase in 10 years, and almost 32 kg more than in 2011.

MEP O’Sullivan welcomed the outcome of this morning’s vote;

“Today, MEPs voted for meaningful measures to cut the mountain of packaging waste that is being generated in the EU every year. For too long we have focussed on recycling as a solution to the ever-growing production of over-packaging, but with this regulation we are finally prioritising waste prevention first and foremost. Setting up effective reuse systems across the EU, as already exist in some Member States, is an opportunity to slash our waste while creating jobs in the circular economy, while new packaging minimisation rules mean that when you buy something small online, it will not be delivered in a huge box.

For the take-away food and drink sector, customers will be able to bring their own containers, while so-called “forever chemicals” like PFAS and BPA, often found in take-away paper-based packaging, will be banned. This is a major victory for the health of European consumers

O’Sullivan notes that today’s vote was not easy;

“This proposal has provoked a huge lobby storm in Brussels, with the disposable packaging industry pushing hard against any measure to reduce single-use packaging. We cannot, however, afford to do nothing. Unless we take action to address the waste crisis, packaging waste is projected to increase by a whopping 20% by 2030, with plastic packaging forecasted to grow by 46% -

After the adoption at committee level today, the proposal for a regulation will now be voted on by all MEPs during the European Parliament plenary sitting on 20 - 23 November. O’Sullivan is hoping to galvanise public support in favour of the updated regulation, and this week launched a “Found on the Ground” art competition for primary and secondary school students to create an art piece out of excessive packaging they have collected.

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