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The report, drawn up by Netherlands MEP Dorette Corbey, calls for manufacturers to be made responsible for preventing unnecessary packaging, and says that it is necessary to encourage retailers to take waste packing materials back, also calling for a more ambitious approach by the EU to the problem. It was adopted this week in the Parliament by 219 votes to 127.

The document examines the way in which the 1994 Packaging Directive has been implemented, and is looking to influence the European Commission’s forthcoming review of the directive by producing a set of recommendations.

Among the key recommendations is a call for ‘a policy mix’ of measures aimed at encouraging prevention, re-use and recycling of packaging materials. Other recommendations are that higher recycling targets should be set and that targets for prevention and reduction should be introduced.

The European Parliament also wants the environmental cost of packaging to be internalised in its price, and is demanding a binding overall target for reducing the amount of packaging waste going to landfill. Energy recovery through incineration is to be seen as the ‘least-worst’ option, in preference to landfill. In terms of energy recovery, the report stresses that a large enough increase in recycling targets will make an increase in the waste recovery target obsolete.

The MEPs believe that producers should have to prove they have picked the most environmentally-friendly packaging for their product. However, there is a balance to be achieved between the amount of packaging and the need to ensure the hygiene and safety of foods – two-thirds of packaging is used for wrapping edible goods.

Parliament also said in the report that it regretted the fact there had been no clear evaluation of the 1994 directive’s environmental impact, or of its effect on the internal market. It urged the Commission to involve all stakeholders in developing standards for packaging.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) welcomed the European Parliament’s resolution of the implementation of the directive, and said in a statement that it believes the resolution will need to be considered carefully by the Commission, as it contains important recommendations.

The EEB particularly welcomed the Parliament’s call to use a policy mix of increased recycling targets, targets for prevention, the introduction of producer responsibility for preventing unnecessary packaging and the internalisation of environmental costs into the price of packaging.

“All these measures represent a useful instrument in order to give full implementation to the waste management hierarchy with reference to packaging waste,” the EEB notes.

The Bureau added that it is happy Parliament shares its concerns about packaging standards from the European standards body, Comité Europeen de Normalisation (CEN). Parliament has criticised the work done so far by CEN and is requesting that the European standardisation body be asked to continue its work based on criteria for environmentally-friendly packaging.

The Bureau also pointed out inconsistencies between the latest initiatives on packaging undertaken by the Commission and the Parliament’s recommendations. In July, the Commission presented a draft reform of the packaging directive, which focused on updating recycling targets without looking at further measures such as prevention and re-use targets.

In the same month, a second mandate to CEN was drafted, asking it to continue its work on packaging standards without giving more precise guidelines than were set out in the previous mandate.

The EEB says that it believes the EU Parliament’s resolution will be able to positively influence the Commission’s next steps.

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