Packaging and packaging waste regulation advances as EU remains focused on sustainability

May 16, 2024

Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on X

By Mark Buckingham, Recall Advisor

The European Council and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on the proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) that targets the increase in packaging waste across the EU. As with many other recent regulations, the PPWR considers the full life cycle of packaging and establishes requirements for composition, labelling, and reuse.

The council estimates that packaging production and packaging waste management generates a total turnover of €370 billion in the EU. However, despite recycling rates increasing, packaging waste has increased by nearly 25% in the past decade and is expected to increase another 19% by 2030 if nothing is done. As such, the European Commission proposed the draft PPWR in 2022 to not just address the increase in packaging waste but also harmonise the internal market for packaging and boost the circular economy.

Key provisions

The PPWR that received provisional agreement outlines several measures, including requiring all packaging to be recyclable, minimising the presence of harmful substances like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and improving collection and recycling of packaging waste.

Towards reducing the amount of plastic packaging waste, the PPWR sets reduction targets of 5% by 2030, 10% by 2035, and 15% by 2040. The regulation also specifically establishes a ban for certain single-use plastic packaging, like those used for unprocessed fresh produce, some types of packaging for foods and beverages in restaurants, individual portions like condiments and creamer, miniature packaging for toiletry products, and more. These packaging formats would be banned from 1 January 2030.

The PPWR also introduces a ban on PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” above certain thresholds in food contact packaging. During the drafting process, there were some concerns around overlap with other legislation that seeks to address the presence of PFAS in plastic materials, so the co-legislators in the provisional agreement asked the commission to assess the need to amend the restriction within four years of the effective date to avoid overlap.

The co-legislators also maintained the commission’s targets for minimum recycled content in plastic packaging. Those targets set a 1 January 2030 effective date and call for:

  • 30% recycled content for contact-sensitive plastic packaging made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as the major component;
  • 10% for contact-sensitive packaging made from plastic materials other than PET;
  • 30% recycled content for single-use plastic drink bottles;
  • 35% recycled content for other plastic packaging.

The regulation also outlines increasing targets for the amount of recycled content in plastic packaging by 2040.

Looking forward

These requirements for recycled content and reusable packaging will impact an array of industries, whether it’s in maintaining food safety in recycled plastic packaging or ensuring that purchases arrive undamaged to consumers.

Environmental groups are calling on legislators to swiftly ratify and implement the PPWR. Once approved and adopted, the PPWR will be applied from 18 months after the date of entry into force, which means manufacturers won’t have much time to adjust operations to meet the new requirements. Businesses should take the opportunity now to closely read all the provisions, which go beyond those outlined here, to ensure they have a strong understanding of their increased responsibilities under the PPWR.

As regulators pay closer attention to the packaging that accompanies so many products, manufacturers and retailers should begin updating their crisis and recall plans for oversight related to packaging. To give your business the utmost protection, it is also worth considering engaging third party experts, including regulatory lawyers and brand protection specialists.

Trusted by the world’s leading brands, Sedgwick brand protection has managed more than 7,000 of the most time-critical and sensitive product recalls in 100+ countries and 50+ languages, over 25 years. To find out more about our product recall and remediation solutions, visit our website here.

Tags: environment, environmental, Environmental impact, Europe, European Union, regulations, sustainability, sustainable