October 26, 2023 – A defining moment emerged as the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment (ENVI) recently approved pivotal revisions to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations. This move signifies a monumental shift in combating pollution and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels across the entire packaging life cycle. The upcoming crucial step involves the European Parliament’s final vote on the negotiating mandate during the November 2023 plenary session.
Although several targets were deleted, diluted, or delayed, the confirmed inclusion of reuse targets for transport packaging stands out as a significant win. Notably, the language has changed from ‘ensure that’ to ‘shall aim to ensure that’; cardboard is still excluded from reuse targets, and responsibility seems to have shifted from ‘manufacturer and final distributor’ to ‘final distributor’ alone. On a positive note, online platforms have been included explicitly within transport packaging targets, and there is a take-back obligation for end distributors of reusable packaging.
There were some critical changes in the definition of reuse, particularly the distinction between reuse and refill, with refill being left out for reuse target calculations.
- Reusable packaging – packaging must be used several times as part of a system, including logistics and suitable incentive schemes, usually deposit return systems.
- Refill – signifies where the container is owned, refilled and retained by the end-user.
- Transport packaging – all packaging designed to provide product protection and facilitate handling and transport of any number of sales units or grouped packaging including e-commerce, but excluding road, rail, ship and air containers. This is particularly pertinent for large household appliances where brands previously thought the targets only applied to tertiary packaging.
The commission has also requested European standardisation organisations to develop voluntary standards to address design, labelling, cleaning, traceability and minimum use cycles to promote well-designed, viable reusable systems. Member States will also need to ensure that extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes and deposit systems dedicate a minimum share of their budget to financing reduction and prevention actions and reuse infrastructure for the deployment of reuse systems.
Targeted Reuse Goals for Transport Packaging
|Large Household Appliances Transport Packaging (including online platforms)||Art 26, Par 1||50%||90%|
|Transport/Sales Packaging (pallets, plastic crates, foldable plastic boxes, pails, drums)||Art 26, Par 7||30%||90%|
|Transport Packaging for Non-food E-commerce||Art 26, Par 8||10%||50%|
|Transport Packaging for Stabilization (wraps and straps)||Art 26, Par 9||10%||30%|
|Grouped Stock-keeping Packaging (including online platforms, excluding cardboard)||Art 26, Par 10||10%||25%|
|Transport Packaging (pallets, boxes, excluding cardboard, trays, plastic crates, intermediate bulk containers, drums, and canisters, of all sizes and materials, including flexible formats)||Art 26, Par 12||95%||–|
|Transport Packaging within the Same Member State (pallets, boxes, excluding cardboard, plastic crates intermediate bulk containers, and drums, of all sizes and materials, including flexible formats)||Art 26, Par 13||100%||–|
There are notable exemptions for very small enterprises: Companies with less than 100m2 sales area (inc. storage and dispatch), micro-companies, those marketing less than 1000kgs packaging per year, or if they can show that single-use packaging formats deliver a better overall environmental outcome justified by a lifecycle assessment.
There’s a committed review set for eight years after the mandate, addressing the effectiveness and environmental impact of these regulations. They will particularly re-assess the development of cardboard packaging to see if its exemption results in heavier use and environmental impact. Success shown by reuse targets might set the stage for newer and more stringent goals for 2040.
“This result is a clear indication that the core of the PPWR is still alive, and reuse rightly remains at its centre,” concluded Willemijn Peeters, Searious Business.
Author: Emma Samson, Searious Business.