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EC’s Circular Economy plan sets ambitious measures for packaging

Katie Nichol

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EC’s Circular Economy plan sets ambitious measures for packaging

The European Commission’s new Circular Economy Action Plan, unveiled earlier this month, sets out a range of measures that will have implications on the design and use of packaging and plastics.

The plan was adopted as part of the European Green Deal, and aims to transform the linear models of resource-intense industries into circular systems where waste is reduced to the minimum. Frans Timmermann, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, highlighted that today only 12% of secondary materials and resources are being brought back into the economy.

“The circular economy is the path towards more sustainable use of resources, because it is about more sustainable production, more sustainable consumption and better waste management,” the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius, said during a press conference. “We will work on design for re-use and recyclability of packaging, mandatory, recycled plastic content and waste reduction targets.”

As regards packaging, there will be new mandatory requirements on what is allowed on the EU market, including the reduction of (over)packaging and packaging waste. Restrictions on the use of some packaging materials for certain applications will be considered, as will a reduction in the complexity of packaging materials. The EC said it will also assess the feasibility of EU-wide labeling to simplify separating packaging waste at source.

For plastics, there will be new mandatory requirements for recycled content, and a special focus on microplastics and on bio-based and biodegradable plastics. The Commission will also develop, for the first time, rules on measuring recycled content in products.

Luxe Packaging Insight spoke to an EU official to find out more.

What are the requirements on recycled content for plastics? What other restrictions on plastics will be implemented?

The mandatory requirements on recycled content for plastics are already in force for plastic beverage bottles under the single-use plastics directive, which provides that from 2025, beverage bottles of up to three liters, including caps and lids, made of polyethylene terephthalate as the major component (PET bottles) contain at least 25 % recycled plastic. From 2030, this will increase to at least 30%. This is calculated as an average for all PET bottles launched on the market of each member state.

What about packaging?

The Commission is starting to analyse measures to introduce in order to deliver on what was announced in the new Circular Economy Action Plan regarding packaging, and in light of this has just launched an impact assessment study.

A proposal for revision of the Directive is to be adopted in 2021 so at this stage, the measures to be proposed are not yet definitive.

When will you announce these new measures? 

We are publishing a study on reinforcing the packaging and packaging waste directive’s essential requirements in coming weeks, which might give insights into measures under consideration. The Inception Impact Assessment Roadmap, to be published soon on the Commission’s website, will also give a clearer idea of the scope of this initiative and the opportunities for stakeholder input and public participation in the context of this initiative throughout 2020.

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