EU packaging and detergent legislation to be tightened

The European Parliament has voted to revise the EU Packaging Directive to increase recovery and recycling targets and set minimum values for different types of material. Meanwhile, the European Commission is proposing tighter legislation on detergent breakdown in the environment.

The European Commission is delighted with the acceptance of its proposed revisions on packaging recycling targets. The amendments will also address prevention, reuse and producer responsibility. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström commented: “I am pleased with the progress made today on establishing increased recovery and recycling targets. The targets will improve the overall level of environmental protection and encourage Member States to obtain the best possible result in their countries.”

The Commission has also been consulting on proposed changes to current regulations on detergent breakdown in the environment. Current legislation only covers the primary stages of breakdown, requiring detergents to loose their surface-active (foaming) properties once they enter the environment.

Revised legislation would require ‘ultimate biodegradability’ tests to establish all biodegradation products of a detergent, with particular regard for those posing a health risk, such as endocrine disrupters. Detergents metabolised into carbon dioxide, water and mineral salts by micro-organisms in the environment would pass the test. But those that produced recalcitrant metabolites would be expected to undergo a risk assessment to determine the environmental impact of the degradation products. The Commission estimates that only 3% of detergents currently sold would fail to pass the new tests.

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