The European Parliament's Committee on Environment and Food Safety (ENVI) has approved the report on the new regulation on packaging (PPWR) proposed by the EU Commission, paving the way for significant changes, including the ban on single-use packaging, with the aim of making the packaging industry more sustainable and reducing its environmental impact.

Plastic reduction a key focus in the new regulation

A noteworthy aspect of the new regulation revolves around the reduction of plastic packaging waste. European Parliament members have established ambitious targets, with the intention of reducing plastic usage by 10% by 2030, 15% by 2035, and 20% by 2040. Additionally, the sale of thin plastic bags (those with a thickness of less than 15 microns) will be banned, except when required for hygiene purposes or employed as primary packaging for loose food items, with the objective of addressing food waste.

The new regulation, known as PPWR, enforces minimum standards for the incorporation of recycled materials in plastic packaging, along with specific targets to be met by 2030 and 2040. Staying within the domain of recycling, EU member states are required to ensure that, by 2029, a minimum of 90% of the materials found in packaging, encompassing plastic, wood, ferrous metals, aluminum, glass, paper, and cardboard, is collected separately.

Moreover, by the close of 2025, the Commission will need to investigate the feasibility of setting sustainability goals and criteria for biobased plastics. This initiative is designed to encourage the exploration of environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional plastics. Lastly, there is a prohibition on the use of harmful chemicals (including PFOA, alkyl substances, polyfluoroalkyl substances, and bisphenol A) in packaging designed for food contact, due to their adverse health impacts.

The ban on single-use packaging

The prohibition of single-use packaging is also one of the most contentious aspects of the new regulation. This measure will directly impact our daily lives, as products like shampoo sachets, sugar sachets, single-dose containers for sauces and preserves, single-dose packaging for ketchup, condiments, and other food items must be phased out by December 31, 2027. This ban will also be extended to fresh fruits and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg (including bagged salads), effectively eliminating packaging such as nets, bags, trays, and various containers in the sale of fruits and vegetables.

Moreover, the use of single-use packaging for cosmetics and hygiene products with a capacity of less than 50 ml for liquid products and less than 100 g for non-liquid products will be prohibited. This measure also encompasses courtesy line products used in hotels and accommodations (such as shampoo bottles, hand and body lotions, small soap sachets, etc.). The ban applies to single-use packaging for food and beverages intended for consumption in the hotel, restaurant, and catering sectors, including disposable trays, plates, and cups.

Furthermore, packaging used to bundle products sold in cans, jars, containers, as well as packaging designed to encourage end consumers to make multiple purchases may also face potential prohibition.

Promoting reusability

The new European regulation is designed to foster the reusability of packaging and containers. Commencing on January 1, 2030, 20% of bottled or canned beverages must be offered in reusable containers. The overarching objective is to encourage reuse (i.e., the repeated use of the same bottle or container) over recycling (which entails separate collection and the transformation of waste into new packaging).

By December 31, 2027, beverages consumed on-site must be served in reusable glasses, and within 2 years, consumers will have the opportunity to refill their own containers or water bottles with bulk beverages.

The upcoming phases of the new packaging regulation

Subsequent to the approval by the ENVI Committee, the new packaging regulation will be a subject of deliberation during the forthcoming plenary sessions of the European Parliament scheduled between November 20 and 23. The most hotly debated matters concern the prohibition of single-use items and the reusability targets. This indicates the possibility of additional amendments to the text during the upcoming parliamentary discussions.

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