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New EU directive. Will plastic bags and wrappings finally disappear?

New EU directive. Will plastic bags and wrappings finally disappear?

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
06.03.2024 14:00

Negotiations to reduce unnecessary packaging waste in the EU have ended. Is the draft too lenient on industry lobbyists?

In behind-the-scenes talks between MEPs and government negotiators, the final scope of legislation to reduce single-use packaging has been agreed. The draft sets a specific target to reduce the annual amount of packaging waste generated in the EU by 5% by 2030. Currently, the average amount of packaging waste generated per person each year in the EU is approximately 190kg.

EU directive to eliminate unnecessary packaging

The legislation is to first eliminate packaging that is completely unnecessary. Fast-food restaurants will no longer be able to serve food and drinks in throwaway plastic wrappings and cups. After months of negotiations, lawmakers agreed that the use of paper and other materials could continue, significantly weakening the European Commission's proposal for a total ban on single-use packaging, Euronews reports.

The changes will also extend to the takeaway food sector. From 2030, sandwich bars, kebab shops, pizzerias and similar businesses will have to offer reusable packaging for at least 10% of their products, and allow customers to bring their own containers.

The regulations will also ban the use of thin plastic in fruit and vegetable markets. The hotel, restaurant, and catering sectors will also face restrictions. By 2030, plastic ketchup sachets and mini boxes of coffee creamer should be a thing of the past, and mini bottles of shampoo or lotions will also disappear from hotels. The shrink-wrapping of luggage at European airports will also be banned.

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The directive was the subject of intense industry lobbying

All these changes are part of the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). The targets it sets for reducing unnecessary rubbish increase to 10% in 2035 and 15% in 2040.

The new PPWR, which reinforces an earlier EU directive of the same name, has been the subject of intense lobbying since it was proposed in November 2022, Euronews reports. Various packaging industries have fought for a position in a soon-to-be-shrinking market.

The paper packaging manufacturers' lobby emerged from the negotiations somewhat victorious. Sergio Baffoni, an activist of the Environmental Paper Network, an organisation that promotes the sustainable use of paper, denounced this fact. "McDonald's and the paper packaging industry managed to distort and empty a regulation born to reduce single-use packaging, which now is promoting it at the cost of the global forests and climate," he stated.

Banning per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging

Dorota Napierska of the Zero Waste Europe group welcomed the agreement to ban PFAS, or so-called ‘forever chemicals’ that accumulate in the environment and living tissues, in food packaging. "This will hopefully send a clear message to food packaging manufacturers that all other substances of concern that we currently find in food packaging should also be eliminated in the coming years," she stressed.

Valeria Botta from the Environmental Coalition on Standards suggested that the requirements for single-use packaging are not as strict as they should be. "The reality is that growing unnecessary packaging and overpackaging is a waste of resources—and recycling alone is just not enough," she said.

Reaching political agreement on the scope of the PPWR means that the new packaging waste legislation could be formally adopted before the end of the European Parliament's term of office for the June elections.

Source: euronews.com

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