Packaging waste: European Parliament adopts updated rules to reduce, reuse, and recycle

Packaging waste: European Parliament adopts updated rules to reduce, reuse, and recycle


Every European generated 188.7 kg of packaging waste in 2021, a figure that is expected to increase to 209 kg in 2030 without additional measures.

The European Parliament has adopted a position on new EU-wide rules on packaging, to tackle constantly growing waste and boost reuse and recycling.

MEPs approved the report, which constitutes Parliament’s mandate for negotiations with EU governments, with 426 votes in favour, 125 against and 74 abstentions.

Besides the overall packaging reduction targets proposed in the regulation (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 also propose to heavily restrict the use of certain single use packaging formats, such as hotel miniature packaging for toiletry products and shrink-wrap for suitcases in airports.

Encourage reuse and refill options for consumers

MEPs aim to clarify the requirements for packaging to be reused or refilled. Final distributors of beverages and take-away food in the food service sector, such as hotels, restaurants and cafés, should give consumers the option of bringing their own container.

Better collection and recycling of packaging waste

The new rules require that all packaging should 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.

Parliament is ready to start talks with national governments on the final form of the law, once the Council has adopted its position.

In 2018, packaging generated a turnover of EUR 355 billion in the EU. It is an ever-increasing source of waste, the EU total having increased from 66 million tonnes in 2009 to 84 million tonnes in 2021.

Each European generated 188.7 kg of packaging waste in 2021, a figure that is expected to increase to 209 kg in 2030 without additional measures.

In adopting this report, Parliament is responding to citizens’ expectations to build a circular economy, avoid waste, phase-out non-sustainable packaging and tackle the use of single use plastic packaging, as expressed in proposals 5(1), 5(3), 5(4), 5(5), 11(1), 11(4) and 20(3) of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

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