European Union countries backed a new EU law to cut packaging waste, but agreed to seek exemptions for certain sectors.
The European Commission proposed the law last year, in a bid to control the rising tide of packaging waste, which, in the EU, has jumped by more than 20% over the last decade, driven by online shopping and ‘grab and go’ consumption habits.
EU countries backed some of the core targets in the new rules, including that by 2030, all packaging will need to be designed so that it can be recycled.
Countries also backed proposed phase-outs of single-use plastic items, such as thin bags for fruit and vegetables, mini shampoo bottles, and the disposable plates, cups and boxes used to serve food for consumption on fast-food restaurants’ premises – although they noted that countries should be able to create exemptions, e.g. for organic fruit and vegetables.
The regulation has split countries, however, with some, including Finland, concerned about the impact on local paper and pulp industries.
Countries agreed to exempt cardboard from a requirement to switch to reusable packaging for transporting goods – an exemption that, Finland noted, would avoid an increase in plastic waste. They also exempted wine from targets to reuse packaging – a move backed by Italy.
EU countries will also be required to launch deposit-return systems for plastic bottles and cans, although ministers agreed that countries with high collection rates for these items can be exempted.
The European Parliament also backed some exemptions from the targets, including those for wine, in its own negotiating position on the law.
EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius acknowledged that the proposal had split countries and come under “heavy lobbying” from industry. Sinkevicius said that the EU countries’ stance was broadly consistent with the core aims of the original law.
“No one should any longer accept that packaging waste is growing faster than GDP,” Sinkevicius told the meeting of ministers on Monday, 18 December.