Call for CEP packaging action

Environment ministers from across the European Union are meeting at the European Council on Friday (4 March) to discuss the action plan included in the European Commission (EC) Circular Economy Package.

The meeting will address the priorities and challenges presented by the action plan from an environmental perspective ahead of it being adopted in the council on 20 June.

The debate will follow on from a stakeholder conference held in January that recommended that consistency in national approaches to standards such as those for reparability and quality of recycling should be enforced to ensure the transition to a circular economy is supported. Delegates at the conference also concluded that strong guidance and long-term focus from the EU and member states and financial incentives to stimulate reuse and the market for secondary resources will help the package’s success.

Call for action on packaging waste measures

Ahead of the ministerial debate, EUROPEN (the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment), an industry organisation representing the packaging supply chain in Europe, has called on EU policymakers to ensure that measures related to packaging waste do not disrupt the internal market.

Regulatory gaps in the EC’s proposals, the body says, run the risk of creating ‘trade barriers, distortions to competition and disproportionate administrative burdens’ for businesses and member states.

It contends that national measures could disrupt the European internal market for packaged goods, and that a circular economy cannot be achieved if the internal market does not function properly. The body’s position paper on the circular economy proposals give the example of national extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes modulating fees for packaging risks ‘fragmenting the internal market due to different criteria used but also due to the divergent impacts of similar criteria for fee modulation per EPR scheme, member state and related packaging waste management infrastructures’.

EUROPEN is therefore calling for EU waste legislation to be harmonised where relevant. It is also urging policymakers to clarify the proposed harmonised calculation method for ‘preparing for reuse/recycling’ targets for packaging and packaging waste to ensure that reported data are robust and comparable.

Ambition of circular economy risks being undermined

EUROPEN Chairman Martin Reynolds said: “The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) provides for the economies of scale for private investment and innovation towards a resource-efficient circular economy. However, the ambition of a competitive circular economy would be undermined if the internal market does not function properly.

“National measures that may be permitted under the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) might lead to trade barriers and fragmentation of the internal market for packaging and packaged goods. Therefore, the protection of the internal market should be strengthened by replicating the WFD’s EPR legal framework in the PPWD, which has the internal market as its legal base.”

Virginia Janssens, Managing Director of EUROPEN, added: “A strengthened legal framework for EPR as proposed in the WFD should also be introduced into the PPWD. This would help member states to achieve current and future packaging recycling targets and separate collection obligations.

“Clear, relevant and proportionate EPR minimum requirements for packaging waste, in addition to safeguarding the internal market, would cater for our specific waste stream’s stakeholders, challenges and solutions. Ultimately, secondary raw material markets would be improved. Defined roles and responsibilities for each and all actors are also paramount for well-functioning national packaging waste management and should be set at member state level.”