The EU Council and Parliament reached agreement Monday to revamp rules to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging, including a ban on ‘forever chemicals’ in food contact packaging. EU packaging – generating a turnover of EUR 355 billion in 2018 – is an ever-increasing source of waste. The EU total increased from 66 million tonnes in 2009 to 84 million tonnes in 2021. Each European generated 188.7 kg of packaging waste in 2021, a figure expected to increase to 209 kg in 2030 without additional measures.

The aim of the new measures is to make packaging used in the EU safer and more sustainable, requiring all packaging to be recyclable, minimising the presence of harmful substances, reducing unnecessary packaging, boosting the uptake of recycled content and improving collection and recycling.

The agreement sets packaging reduction targets (5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040) and requires EU countries to reduce, in particular, the amount of plastic packaging waste. According to the deal, certain single use plastic packaging formats, such as packaging for unprocessed fresh fruit and vegetables, packaging for foods and beverages filled and consumed in cafés and restaurants, individual portions (for e.g. condiments, sauces, creamer, sugar), accommodation miniature packaging for toiletry products and shrink-wrap for suitcases in airports, would be banned from 1 January 2030.

There will be a ban on very lightweight plastic carrier bags (below 15 microns), unless required for hygiene reasons or provided as primary packaging for loose food to help prevent food wastage. To prevent adverse health effects, MEPs secured introduction of a ban on use of so-called “forever chemicals” (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances or PFASs) in food contact packaging. Negotiators agreed to set a specific target for reusable packaging for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (except e.g. milk, wine, aromatised wine, spirits) by 2030 (at least 10%). Member states are able to grant a five-year derogation from these requirements under certain conditions.

Final distributors of beverages and take-away food in the food service sector would be obliged to offer consumers the option of bringing their own container. They would also be required to endeavour to offer 10% of products in a reusable packaging format by 2030. In addition, the MEPs say member states should be required to incentivise restaurants, canteens, bars, cafés and catering services to serve tap water, (where available, for free or for a low service fee) in a reusable or refillable format.

All packaging should be recyclable, fulfilling strict criteria to be defined through secondary legislation. Certain exemptions are foreseen for lightweight wood, cork, textile, rubber, ceramic, porcelain or wax.

Other agreed measures include minimum recycled content targets for any plastic part of packaging; minimum recycling targets by weight of packaging waste generated and increased recyclability requirements; 90% of single use plastic and metal beverage containers (up to three litres) to be collected separately by 2029 (deposit-return systems). Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before it can enter into force.

Source: EUbusiness

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