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EU: Council and Parliament Strike Packaging Waste Compromise Deal

The compromise deal struck between negotiators from the Council and the European Parliament brings a long and intense political struggle to address the concerns about ever-increasing amounts of packaging waste to a close.

Despite the unprecedented pressures and negative lobbying, EU institutions finally agreed on a set of rules to prevent the generation of packaging waste, promote reuse systems and reduce our dependence on single-use packaging; according to the press releases by the institutions.

To stop the uncontrolled growth of packaging waste, the EU is setting binding packaging reduction targets for its Member States (5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040), as well as reuse targets for certain packaging segments, including beverages and transport packaging.

The coalition of NGOs working on EU packaging rules applauds stricter provisions on substances of concern and direct restrictions on a group of harmful and extremely persistent chemicals (PFAS) in food packaging. It is expected that a mandatory future report on the presence of substances of concern in packaging will bring more clarity about the extent to which they negatively affect circularity, as well as chemical safety and impact on human and environmental health.

The coalition, however, regrets that the initial proposal of the European Commission, published in November 2022, was watered down by a plethora of exemptions and derogations adopted under the pressure of throwaway lobbies. It is especially disappointing that the scope of restrictions for unnecessary packaging are limited only to single-use plastics and not to all single-use formats as foreseen in the original proposal (including single-use paper-based packaging).

It is also regrettable that cardboard packaging is excluded from the reuse targets for transport. These loopholes are the result of unprecedented pressures from single-use paper lobbies and risk undermining the regulation’s effectiveness, leading to an increase in paper packaging consumption, thus perpetuating wasteful practices and putting unsustainable pressure on forests.

After 4 years of preparatory work and more than 15 months of negotiations marked by unprecedented levels of lobbying, the three EU institutions must waste no time to adopt this key regulation before the European elections. The European Parliament must ratify the compromise reached yesterday in the April Plenary, putting an end to wasteful practices and unlocking the opportunities of genuinely circular packaging. The coalition also urges the European Commission to sign the agreement as soon as possible.