ENVI vote to adopt Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations

Today (24 October), the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) has voted to adopt the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).

Packaging and Packaging Waste RegulationsThe draft regulation, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of packaging within Europe, saw fifty-six votes in favour, twenty-three against and five abstentions. The complete assembly is slated to cast their votes on the negotiating mandate in the upcoming November 2023 plenary session.

The document establishes criteria for the entire life cycle of packaging items, from raw materials to their final disposal.

Amendments to the regulation include concrete targets to tackle plastic packaging. The ENVI aims for a 10 per cent reduction in plastic packaging by 2030, 15 per cent by 2035 and 20 per cent by 2040.

The minimum recycled content targets for contact-sensitive packaging have also been revised in today’s vote. For example, single-use beverage bottles are no longer required to meet the previous 30 per cent target for contact-sensitive packaging made from PET. Additionally, the 10 per cent target for contact-sensitive packaging constructed from plastics other than PET, excluding single-use plastic beverage bottles, has been adjusted down to 7.5 per cent.

Additionally, MEPs want to ban the sale of very light plastic bags – those weighing less than 15 microtons – unless they are a necessity for hygiene reasons or involve the packaging of bulk foods.

The amendments also include a proposed ban on the use of ‘forever chemicals’ such as Bisphenol A and PFAS – frequently used to produce paper or cardboard packaging that is fire-resistant – within packaging that is intended for contact with food due to associated health risks.

It is also anticipated that the Commission will assess the potential for introducing targets and sustainability standards for bio-based plastics by the conclusion of 2025. These materials are anticipated to play a role in reducing the plastic industry's dependence on fossil fuels.

Plastics Europe raises concerns on ENVI PPWR vote

Plastics Europe has voiced its concerns that the vote weakens the ambition to create a market for recycled plastic, whilst also not sufficiently incentivising the use of bio-based plastics.

The trade association claims that maintaining the Commission’s mandatory targets for contact-sensitive packaging is essential for incentivising the EU plastics system to increase investments in chemical and mechanical engineering – all vital for improving the quantity and quality of recycled plastics and driving circularity by reducing the reliance on fossil-based raw input.

Commenting on the vote, Virginia Janssens, Managing Director of Plastics Europe said: “We are particularly disappointed that the recycled content targets for contact-sensitive packaging have been reduced.

“This is a missed opportunity to encourage the necessary investment and will undermine the
development of the market for recycled plastic packaging in Europe.”

Plastics Europe also expressed disappointment in the maintenance of ‘arbitrary’ bans or reduction targets aimed at plastic packaging only, without impact assessment or demonstration of environmental benefits.

The organisation claims that these bans limit the use of plastic packaging formats that are both highly recyclable and already commonly recycled, such as plastics used for fresh products or bundled packaging like shrink wraps and collation films. These packaging formats serve a crucial function in safeguarding and conveying consumer goods.

Virginia Janssens added: “Whilst politically attractive to some stakeholders, arbitrary bans are not the answer. They will only encourage the substitution of plastics with other materials without any proven environmental advantages and will not solve the issue of single-use packaging.

“We instead call for an ambitious proposal that creates a positive investment climate enabling the European plastics system to continue its sustainability journey.”

Paper and board recycling in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations

The Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi) also voiced concerns following today’s amendments to PPWR.

The document voted by ENVI today includes a requirement to recycle packaging in a closed loop. The confederation claims that this makes no sense for paper and board, where different products are already recycled together with efficiency.

CepiI states that recycling within the same product application imposes an unnecessary barrier to paper recycling and calls on the EU to consider a material loop rather than a closed one.

The confederation stresses the need to acknowledge the achievements that have already been made within the paper and board sector. Today, 75 per cent of paper-based packaging is made from recycled materials with a strong market for secondary raw materials in the paper and board industry.

Furthermore, the paper and board industry already exceeds recycling targets set for the year 2025, currently achieving an 82.5 per cent recycling rate.

Cepi has called for recyclable and reusable materials options to be complementary as part of the regulation. It claims that it should be acknowledged that paper packaging is both highly recycled and simultaneously sourced from renewable content in a resource-efficient manner.

Jori Ringman, Director General of Cepi said: “It is not too late for the Parliament, as the Institution representing the voice of EU citizens, to acknowledge all the benefits of the EU so efficiently recycling a material that is renewable and sustainably sourced and managed.

“This is already a world-class recycling system, the result of billions of euros of private but also public investment. We should not aim to break what works, but to make it better.”

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