The European Union is pursuing ambitious plans to promote the sustainability of packaging. This is particularly evident in the draft Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), which was published in November 2022. This sets out binding requirements for packaging and packaging waste on the European market and goes beyond the previous EU directive. As a regulation, the PPWR will apply uniformly in all 27 EU member states, which, in contrast to previous directives, leaves less scope for national adjustments.

Update: On 4 March 2020, Parliament and the Council announced a provisional agreement on the EU Packaging Regulation in the trilogue negotiations. An important step! The law was also approved in the plenary session of the European Parliament on 24 April 2024. In order to be formally adopted, the PPWR will now be translated into the official languages of the EU before the new Parliament has to give its final approval in autumn 2024. The regulations should then take effect 18 months after the regulation comes into force.

The PPWR Regulation: overview and potential

The primary objective of the PPWR is to significantly reduce the negative environmental impact of packaging in the European Union. To this end, resource consumption and packaging waste should generally be minimized and the circular economy promoted. The PPWR sets out various measures to achieve this objective.

The PPWR plays a key role in the reduction of plastics, as packaging accounts for the majority of plastics produced in the EU. It offers the opportunity to reduce resource consumption, waste and pollution. The regulation can help to avoid unnecessary packaging and promote the use of reusable packaging.

However, it should be noted that the PPWR is associated with increased administrative and monetary costs, which could pose a challenge for small retailers in particular. Therefore, adaptation and consideration for all retail sizes is crucial.

Measures within the EU

Driven by the planned Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation, the packaging industry and e-commerce are on the verge of a radical change. The comprehensive planned measures aim to drastically minimise the ecological footprint of packaging in the European Union.

A significant step here is the ban on the introduction of packaging without specific minimum requirements for recyclability after 2030. At the same time, the weight, volume and empty space of packaging will be reduced to the necessary minimum. Packaging that increases the perceived volume of the product through a double bottom or similar will be banned. The regulation will be binding for all companies based in the EU and for companies that import products into the EU.

The main changes:

  1. Minimum standards for the recyclability of packaging: The regulation sets minimum standards for the recyclability of packaging, whereby retailers must ensure that their packaging is suitable for recycling.
  2. Inclusion of recycled materials: One of the key requirements of the regulation is the increased use of recycled materials in certain packaging, particularly plastic packaging.
  3. Reduction of packaging waste: The PPWR sets clear targets for the reduction of packaging waste, which requires companies to take clear measures to reduce waste.
  4. Labeling and information standards: Packaging must meet certain labeling standards with the PPWR, including the labeling of recyclable packaging and the provision of information on proper disposal.
  5. Use of authorized representatives: Companies that send packaging to an EU member state and are based outside must appoint an authorized representative.
  6. Declarations of conformity: Distributors will be required to prepare comprehensive declarations of compliance at packaging level to ensure compliance with the PPWR.
  7. Measures to expand reusable systems: In order to promote the acceptance and use of reusable packaging, targeted measures will be adopted that also include incentives for manufacturers and retailers.

Outlook: When can we expect the PPWR?

The final adoption of the PPWR is still pending. The draft is currently being discussed in the European Parliament. If the PPWR is adopted, it could come into force in 2025.

Although the PPWR represents a significant step towards more sustainable packaging practices in the EU, it cannot be denied that the regulation will involve a great deal of effort and expense, especially in terms of packaging. Corresponding measures and considerations are therefore currently being discussed.

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