Stack of crushed colorful plastic bottles background waiting for recycleOn June 11, 2020, the European Commission published a so-called inception impact assessment, which is its plan for revising the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62 (PPWD).   

  • The Commission invites stakeholders to provide comments on its plan until August 6.
  • The Commission is expected to make a legislative proposal in Q2 2021.   

With this revision, the Commission wants to address multiple problem clusters, in particular the limited competitiveness of secondary, recycled materials vis-à-vis fossil, virgin materials and the increasing generation of packaging waste. The Commission also wants to help EU Member States to achieve their recycling targets – which stem from the 2018 revision of the PPWD and other waste laws.

With regard to recycling, the Commission finds that packaging design does not sufficiently consider, and therefore increases, the difficulties and costs of treating packaging waste – including collection and sorting. Current trends on the market even showed an increase in difficult-to recycle packaging such as flexible multilayer composite packaging. This was exacerbated by the lack of specific, clear and enforceable legal rules requiring that packaging can be recycled to a high quality in a cost-efficient way. The existing essential requirements left too much room for a trend towards light-weighting of packaging, sometimes at the expense of recyclability.

With regard to waste prevention, the Commission notes that the packaging sector is the biggest contributor to plastic waste, despite an overall trend towards light-weighting. Drivers contributing to growing packaging consumption included the shift from reusable to single-use formats, growing online sales and ‘excessive’ over-packaging.  

The Commission’s objectives are to ensure the free movement of packaging and packaged goods, and a well-functioning internal market for secondary raw materials through fully harmonized rules, while tackling negative impacts on the environment and health by ensuring a reduction in packaging waste generation, including by reducing (over)packaging.   

Despite contemplating specific restrictions, i.e, bans, the Commission considers fundamental rights, such as the freedom to conduct a business and the right to property, or impacts on them, not applicable. In fact, specific waste reduction targets and mandatory design requirements for example, could also have significant indirect and direct impacts on what packaging producers will be allowed to continue to place on the European market and consequently limit their customers’ choice.  

The Commission invites stakeholders to provide comments on its plan until August 6. Work on a full impact assessment, which will underpin an eventual legislative proposal, has already started. This process is partly by-invitation-only. It is expected to include a call for evidence, especially on hazardous substances (July-September); followed by a public consultation, including on most problematic packaging types (August-October); and further stakeholder workshops as well as interviews (September-October). A final report is expected in March 2021. 

The Commission is expected to make a legislative proposal in Q2 2021.   

For a more in-depth review of these proposals, please see our insight.