MEPs signal tighter controls for European packaging industry

MEPs have signalled support for much tougher controls on packaging materials, to reduce their impact on the environment, ahead of preparations for a revision of the EU packaging waste directive this autumn.

On 9 October, the European Parliament’s environment committee adopted a resolution calling for mandatory EU packaging prevention and reuse targets, and taxation of specific packaging materials. The Commission is expected to publish proposed new recycling targets in November as part of the first phase of the revision of the 1994 packaging and packaging waste directive (94/62/EC). A second phase will be a much wider review of how the revised directive will tackle the primary areas of packaging waste management.

While the MEPs’ resolution is non-binding, and subject to change in forthcoming sessions of Parliament, it indicates the likely position that MEPs will take in forthcoming negotiations. Also, this follows a report commissioned at the Parliament’s own initiative, on the workings of the directive by Dutch MEP, Dorette Corbey. This report looks set to inform much of the revision of the directive, as well as focusing MEP’s minds on the issue.

Reduction of the total level of packaging waste going to landfill is the main aim of the directive, according to the Corbey report. Europen, the trade body representing the European packaging industry, backed the report’s call to focus in the short term on drawing up new targets for the next five-year period. However, the industry has expressed concern over recommendations to introduce producer-responsibility for selecting the “environmentally best” packaging type, based on life-cycle assessment.

The Corbey report also recommended the introduction of a “mandatory fee” for packaging materials with minimal secondary raw material value. Europen considers both to be too great a burden for the industry, with the potential of creating barriers to trade. Measures to recognise materials, which are easier to separate in the waste stream, were also recommended.

New targets are expected to require member states to recycle at least 60% of their packaging waste by 2006, with differentiated targets for specific materials. These are likely to be 70% minimum for glass; 60% for paper and cardboard; 50% for metals and 20% for plastics.

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