Packaging recycling rules: Casa breaks ranks with EPP and votes against

New rules yet to be negotiated with EU governments aim at 90% waste separation target for packaging waste

Each European generates over 188kg of packaging waste, figure that is expected to increase to 209kg in 2030 without additional measures
Each European generates over 188kg of packaging waste, figure that is expected to increase to 209kg in 2030 without additional measures

Talks with national governments in the EU will start on the final form of a law that for European-wide rules on packaging, to tackle constantly growing waste and boost reuse and recycling.

An overwhelming majority of 426 MEPs voted in favour of the mandate for negotiations with EU governments, with 125 against and 74 abstentions.

Nationalist MEP David Casa voted against, breaking ranks with the European People’s Party which supported the law together with centre-left S&D, liberals Renew, as well as the Greens and the Left. The law was mainly opposed by right-wing conservatives ECR and the far-right ID.

The new rules require that all packaging should be recyclable, fulfilling strict criteria to be defined through secondary legislation. Certain temporary exemptions are foreseen, for example for wood and wax food packaging.

Packaging generated over €355 billion in sales in the EU in 2018, making it an ever-increasing source of waste, from 66 million tonnes in 2009 to 84 million tonnes in 2021. Each European generates over 188kg of packaging waste, figure that is expected to increase to 209kg in 2030 without additional measures.

Under the proposed rules, EU countries must ensure that 90% of materials contained in packaging –  plastic, wood, ferrous metals, aluminium, glass, paper and cardboard – is collected separately by 2029.

MEPs want to ban the sale of very lightweight plastic carrier bags that are below 15 microns, unless required for hygiene reasons or provided as primary packaging for loose food to help prevent food wastage.

They also propose to heavily restrict the use of certain single-use packaging formats, such as hotel miniature packaging for toiletry products and shrink-wrap for suitcases in airports.

MEPs also want a ban on the use of so called “forever chemicals” like PFAs and Bisphenol A in food contact packaging.

Besides the overall packaging reduction targets proposed in the regulation – 5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040 – MEPs want to set specific targets to reduce plastic packaging of 10% by 2030, 15% by 2035 and 20% by 2040.

MEPs also want to allow consumers the option of bringing their own container for the final distributors of beverages and take-away food in the food service sector, such as hotels, restaurants and cafés.

“Recent events in Europe, and particularly in Belgium, concerning water pollution by PFAS chemicals show the urgent need for action,” said Belgian rapporteur Frédérique Ries (Renew). “By voting to ban ‘forever’ pollutants in food packaging, the European Parliament has shown that it seeks to protect the health of European citizens.

“Regarding plastics, the contract has been fulfilled, since my legislative report tackles the heart of the issue by setting tougher waste reduction targets for plastic packaging. Unfortunately, on the circular economy, and prevention in particular, the outcome of the plenary vote is not so positive and ignores the reality of the figures: a 30% increase by 2030 if we don’t act now. Of the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), only recycling escaped unscathed. The end of throwaway packaging is still a long way off!”

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