EU reaches agreement on beleaguered packaging waste policy package

Lawmakers informally agreed on the new packaging waste rules, known as PPWR, late on Monday (4 March). The progression of the legislation has been slow since it was first proposed in 2022, due to staunch opposition from businesses including food-to-go brands.

Under the updated PPWR, all non-recyclable packaging will need to be removed from EU markets by 2030.

There will be targeted, interim bans on items deemed hard-to-recycle and unnecessary, including plastic bags for fruit and vegetables, single-use plastic sachets for condiments and shrink-wrap for suitcases at airports.

A controversial ban on single-use boxes, plates and cups will also be instated for food outlets and apply to any customers dining in.

The bans will help push the EU towards new packaging reduction targets. The bloc is aiming for a 5% reduction in weight by 2030, increasing to 15% by 2040.

Tackling over-packaging will be key to achieving these reductions. Retailers and consumer goods giants will be mandated to ensure that no more than 50% of their packaging size is accounted for by empty space.

Deposit return schemes

Another key facet of the PPWR is a requirement for all EU member states to achieve an 80% collection and recycling rate for beverage cans and bottles by 2026, increasing to 90% by 2029.

Many nations without Deposit Return Schemes (DRSs) are likely to implement them to reach these levels, including Italy and Spain.

This is in stark contrast to the UK, where the introduction of a nationwide DRS is reportedly set to be delayed until 2028 despite first being promised by the Government in 2018.

The PPWR package is yet to be formally accepted. It must now be approached by the European Parliament and individual EU member states. Green policy experts are warning that this process is likely to be far longer than usual, due to both the opposition to the laws so far and the fact that it is a mega-election year.

Common Seas’s policy lead Carla Worth said the move from the EU is “historic” and “sets an important precedent” ahead of the next round of UN discussions to create a global treaty on plastic pollution.

Whilst the legislation still has some final hurdles, this is nevertheless a moment to celebrate,” she said. “The world produces 141 million tonnes of plastic packaging a year and we need to turn the tide before it’s too late. With effective plastic bans, paired with active Extended Producer Responsibility and Deposit Return Schemes, the EU can lead the world forward in the fight against plastic pollution. The solutions we need to end plastic pollution are in our hands – now is the time to use them.”

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