Reuse and recycle: EU proposes revised rules to limit packaging waste

The European Commission has proposed revised EU rules to reduce packaging, make it reusable and boost recycling.

As part of the proposal, one of the key targets is to make packaging fully recyclable by 2030, the EU executive said in a statement.

The Commission proposes banning certain types of single-use packaging for food and beverages in restaurants and fresh fruits and vegetables as well as banning miniature packing for shampoo or in hotels.

The goal is to reduce packaging waste by 15% by 2040 per EU country based on population, compared to 2018.

“The way goods are packaged can and should be done a lot better,” said the European Commission’s executive vice president Frans Timmermans at a press conference.

“I think everyone has experienced it: you order something online and it comes in a massive box that’s half empty or contains double layers to make the product look larger than it is.

“Or you go to a café and instead of being served on regular plates, you get food in single-use containers so you leave behind a mountain of waste. Such overpackaging is a nuisance to us and increasingly damaging to our environment,” he said.

Among the proposed measures are the clear labelling of reusable packaging, banning certain packaging, mandatory return systems for plastic bottles and aluminium cans, and new mandatory rates of recycled content in new plastic packaging.

“By 2040 most coffees-to-go will come in a reusable cup, or a cup we bring ourselves,” said Timmermans.

“For the first time, we are establishing targets for packaging waste reduction for member states, and mandatory reuse targets for selected packaging groups and for economic operators,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, at a press conference.

Each European generates on average 180 kilogrammes of packaging waste per year, the European Commission said.

The Commission estimated that without new rules, there would be a 19% increase in packaging waste in the EU by 2030.

Martin Porter, the executive chair of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership’s Brussels office, said that the package was a positive step towards “addressing the issues of material use.”

The revised packaging rules are “an ambitious approach, setting clear targets to push for industrial change.”

But he said it could be improved by ensuring the legislation doesn’t have unintended negative consequences.

“That means it must avoid incentivising recycling for the sake of meeting a target, rather than because it is truly the most environmentally friendly option,” Porter said.

The rules are part of the EU’s Circular Economy Package which aims to “reduce pressure on natural resources” and create more sustainable growth.

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