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EU parliament adopts revamped packaging rules

This week, the European parliament adopted its position on new EU-wide packaging rules that aim to tackle waste and boost reuse and recycling. In addition to the overall packaging reduction targets proposed (5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040), MEPs want to set specific targets to reduce plastic packaging (10% by 2030, 15% by 2035 and 20% by 2040). MEPs want to ban the sale of very lightweight plastic carrier bags, below 15 microns, unless required for hygiene reasons or provided as primary packaging for loose food to help prevent food wastage. They have also asked for a ban on the use of ‘forever chemicals’ (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances or PFASs) and Bisphenol A in food contact packaging, to prevent adverse health effects. As part of the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, MEPs want to clarify requirements for packaging to be reused or refilled, proposing that final distributors of beverages and take-away food in foodservice must give consumers the option to bring their own container. New rules would also require that all packaging must be recyclable, fulfilling strict criteria to be defined through secondary legislation. Certain temporary exemptions are foreseen, for example for wood and wax food packaging. MEPs want EU countries to ensure that 90% of materials contained in packaging (plastic, wood, ferrous metals, aluminium, glass, paper and cardboard) is collected separately by 2029. Rapporteur Frédérique Ries, of the Renew Europe Group, said: “Recent events in Europe, and particularly in Belgium, concerning water pollution by PFAS chemicals show the urgent need for action. By voting to ban "forever" pollutants in food packaging, the European Parliament has shown that it seeks to protect the health of European citizens.” “Regarding plastics, the contract has been fulfilled, since my legislative report tackles the heart of the issue by setting tougher waste reduction targets for plastic packaging.” Ries added that the “end of throwaway packaging is still a long way off” however, commenting: “Unfortunately, on the circular economy, and prevention in particular, the outcome of the plenary vote is not so positive and ignores the reality of the figures: a 30% increase by 2030 if we don't act now.” Dirk Jacobs, director of FoodDrinkEurope, commented on the new rules: “With today’s vote, MEPs have made positive steps towards enabling food and drink businesses to embrace the big ambition towards packaging circularity. There is more work to be done, but the time is now for the council to rally behind the parliament’s general approach and drive sustainable change forward.” Nicholas Hodac, director general of UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe, said that the organisation appreciates MEPs’ efforts in promoting circularity of beverage packaging, adding that measures such as Deposit and Return Systems (DRS) and the role of systems enabling refill are “critical enablers to turn the theory of circular packaging into practice”. He added: “While we still have concerns regarding the increased targets without further impact assessment, we are pleased with MEPs’ support for systems enabling refill and the creation of mechanisms that will enable the complementarity of reuse and recycling. This will ensure reusable packaging is introduced where and when it makes the most sense from an environmental perspective.” Parliament is ready to start talks with national governments on the final form of law, once the council has adopted its position.

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