A position for the wrong century: European Parliament’s vote on the PPWR
Strasbourg, 22 November – The European Parliament’s latest round of voting this afternoon on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) reflects a stance that is behind the times, according to Zero Waste Europe.
Annex V, a list which itemised unnecessary packaging formats, suffered a major blow with extensive derogations proposed by the ITRE Committee and by a delegation of Italian MEPs. Packaging formats that were gutted include disposable plates and cups from dine-in restaurants, single-use packaging for fruit and vegetables, and single-use sauce and sugar tubs and sachets.
Though waste prevention targets were preserved at 5% by 2030, 10% by 2035, and 15% by 2040, the watered-down text excluded crucial mechanisms needed to actually reach those targets. The position included reuse targets with derogations, reflecting an outdated stance that goes against the waste hierarchy.
Aline Maigret, Head of Policy, states:
“We are dissatisfied with the decreased ambition in the text. Granting derogations and exemptions on waste prevention and reuse to ‘appease’ industry players is unacceptable and takes us even further from the ultimate goal of this revision: reducing packaging waste.”
One of the major derogations to reuse targets stipulates that if a Member State can report that its has over 85% recycling rate for specific packaging, such packaging is exempted to comply with reuse targets.
Raphaëlle Catté, Policy & Research Support, states:
“By favouring recycling over reuse, the new derogations in Articles 22 and 26 question the whole foundation of EU waste law, namely the waste hierarchy. Recycling will not stop the waste problem, even with robust systems. It is worrying that not only right and far-right parties, but MEPs from all backgrounds yielded to lobbyist arguments.”
Nathan Dufour, Reuse Systems Manager, states:
“A myriad of European start-ups and cities working on reusable systems for takeaway packaging will be disappointed to learn they are let down by the European Parliament who deleted reuse obligations for this sector. The hopes to defend their interests are now in the hands of the council.”
In terms of safe circularity, it is a win that the toxicity perspective is taken into account by proposing a ban on intentionally added ‘forever chemicals’ such as PFAS and Bisphenol A in food packaging. The proposal also includes measures to increase traceability and transparency regarding the use of all other substances of concern in packaging.
Dorota Napierska, Toxic-Free Circular Economy Policy Officer, states:
“Almost twenty years on, REACH and Food Contact Materials Regulations have failed to sufficiently protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals in various food packaging materials. That’s why today I find it encouraging to see that the European Parliament is acting with urgency on hazardous chemicals in food packaging. Today’s vote shows the extra ambition in tackling these chemicals, specifically in Article 5. When the PPWR proposal reaches the European Council next month, we hope it will keep ambition high and prioritise consumer safety, particularly for vulnerable groups.”
The Parliament voted against the introduction of a credit-based system for recycled content targets, which would have reduced transparency. However, while biobased plastics seemed to have been removed from the recycled content targets, the final vote lacks clarity.
Lauriane Veillard, Chemical Recycling and Plastic-to-Fuels Policy Officer, states:
“Amendment 461 excluded biobased plastic from meeting recycled content targets. However, Amendment 138 contains a provision which contradicts this by mixing biobased plastic with recycled feedstock. If such mixing of recycled and biobased plastic occurs, it will go against the definition of recycled content itself, which is defined as a result of a recycling process, while biobased plastic is simply virgin plastic. We need clarity on the final position of the European Parliament before the trialogue discussions start.”
Janek Vähk, Zero Pollution Policy Manager, states:
“We regret that the European Parliament failed to make mixed waste sorting mandatory. In order to meet the EU’s recycling targets, it is crucial to recover all recyclable packaging waste for recycling. Wherever packaging waste is not separately collected, sorting mixed waste is the only viable option to keep the material value of recyclable packaging in the circular economy. Therefore, sorting such waste should be mandatory (“shall”) and not just a voluntary option (“may”) for Member States.”
With a new Council of the EU presidency due in January 2024, negotiation extensions pose uncertainty for concluding this file within the current mandate. This demands swift action and a need to keep ambitions high to secure a deal before the upcoming elections next year.
Aline Maigret, Head of Policy, states:
“We urge the trilogues to keep the ambitions of the file high. There is a need to respect the waste hierarchy by prioristising prevention and reuse first, as well as call for safe circularity in packaging, to achieve the ultimate goal of this regulation, which is to reduce waste.”
Notes to the editor
- Zero Waste Europe Press Release “Initial vote on PPWR signals relief for policymakers” (ENVI Committee vote 24 October 2023): https://zerowasteeurope.eu/press-release/initial-vote-on-ppwr-signals-relief-for-policymakers/
- European Commission: “Proposal for a revision of EU legislation on Packaging and Packaging Waste”: https://environment.ec.europa.eu/publications/proposal-packaging-and-packaging-waste_en
- Eurostat: “EU packaging waste generation with record increase”: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/en/web/products-eurostat-news/w/DDN-20231019-1
False claims from corporate lobbying have been a hallmark of this crucial waste regulation. One tell-tale argument goes: pushing for reuse will impact negatively the cost of living of citizens and cut jobs, whereas the EPP and ECR’s compromise amendments 10 and 12 are likely to exacerbate just that, according to the European Commission estimates.
The legislative journey of the PPWR unfolded across several pivotal milestones. It commenced in November 2022 when the Commission introduced its draft regulation. In April 2023, rapporteur Fréderique Ries presented her draft report containing recommendations for amendments. By May 10th, MEPs had submitted their proposed amendments. Technical discussions on the PPWR took place from April to July 2023, encompassing concurrent meetings in both the Council and the European Parliament. On October 24th, the ENVI Committee voted to adopt Rapporteur Reis’s compromise amendments.
- Reuse Vanguard Project (RSVP) – Reuse Blueprint
- The economics of reuse systems
- Making Europe transition to reusable packaging – infographics
- Assessing Climate Impact: Reusable Systems vs. Single-use Takeaway Packaging
- Unveiling the Complexities: Exploring LCAs of Reusable Packaging in the Take-Away Sector
- How to set up managed pool systems – available in English, German, French, Dutch and Spanish
- Packaging Reuse vs Packaging Waste Prevention
- 81 European environmental organisations published an Open letter & FactSheet on Reuse urging policymakers to back the European Commission’s specific reuse targets (14 June 2023).
- “Debunking common myths about food hygiene, food waste, and health concerns related to reusable packaging” Myth busting paper
- Packaging at the core of pollution infographics + text
- Food packaging: safety first (policy briefing providing arguments towards toxic-free and future-proof packaging)
- Plastics In The Spotlight – Zero Waste Europe
Aline Maigret, Head of Policy, [email protected]
Raphaëlle Catté, Policy & Research Support, [email protected]
Lauriane Veillard, Chemical Recycling and Plastic-to-Fuels Policy Officer, [email protected]
Nathan Dufour, Reuse Systems Manager | Leader of the ReuSe Vanguard Project (RSVP), [email protected]
Janek Vahk, Zero Pollution Policy Manager, [email protected]
Dorota Napierska, Toxic-Free Circular Economy Policy Officer, [email protected]
About Zero Waste Europe
Zero Waste Europe is a European network of communities, local leaders, experts, and change agents working towards the elimination of waste in our society. Advocating for sustainable systems and the redesign of mankind’s relationship with resources, they accelerate a just transition towards zero waste for the benefit of people and the planet. www.zerowasteeurope.eu