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New EU Regulation on Packaging and Packaging Waste

The European Parliament (EP) adopted the Proposal for a Regulation regarding Packaging and Packaging Waste (hereinafter ’PPWR’) on 4 March 2024. The law will enter into force after the Council’s final approval. As far as EU regulations have direct effect, they are binding to every EU citizen and legal person, that is why experts think PPWR will lead to significant changes in the packaging industry. The Proposal requires Member States to set out national waste reduction goals, in particular regarding plastic packaging waste. By 2030, the use of unnecessary packaging shall be reduced by 5%, by 2035 10% and by 2040 15%.

The Proposal sets out revolutionary rules for certain economic areas in the field of packaging. From 1 January 2030, the single-use plastic packaging of certain products will be banned, such as the packaging of unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables, single-use plastic packaging for food and drinks served and consumed in cafes and restaurants, single-use packaging for individually wrapped portions (e.g. spices, sauces, coffee creams, sugar), single-use miniature packaging for hotel toiletries and very lightweight plastic carrier bags (less than 15 microns). The Proposal sets specific reuse targets to be reached by 2030 and 2040 for the packaging of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (excluding e.g. milk, wine, aromatised wine products and short drinks), for transport and consumer packaging as well as for multipacks. Member States may be exempt from these requirements for a period of 5 years under certain conditions, and the Regulation would entitle the European Commission to add further exemptions. The final distributors of beverages and takeaway food shall allow consumers to take home the products they buy in their own food and drink containers. They should also aim to offer at least 10% of their products in a reusable form of packaging by 2030.

Most types of packaging would fall under the Regulation’s scope. According to the Proposal, all packaging (except lightweight wood, cork, textiles, rubber, ceramics, porcelain and wax packaging) must be recyclable and meet strict criteria. In case of multipacks, transport and e-commerce packaging the proportion of empty space must not exceed 40%. Producers and importers must also minimize the weight and volume of packaging. To prevent adverse health effects, the Regulation would prohibit the use of so-called "perpetual chemicals" (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAs) in packaging that comes into contact with food, if their levels exceed a certain limit. It would also set a target for the minimum amount of recycled content in plastic packaging and the percentage of packaging waste that must be recycled. Until 2029, 90% of single-use plastic and metal beverage containers (up to three litres) will have to be collected separately.

The Regulation would mandate the Commission to grant exemptions from the rules in certain specific cases (e.g. for micro-enterprises or for economic operators who place less than 1000 kg of packaging annually).