Explore the diverse world of packaging, its environmental impact, and the EU's efforts to address packaging waste in 2021. Discover the proposed regulations and upcoming parliamentary decisions for a sustainable future.

Navigating the Packaging Predicament: Environmental Impact, EU Regulations, and Future Strategies

Packaging assumes diverse forms such as bottles, containers, cans, boxes, and bags, constructed from a variety of materials including paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, wood, and metal. It plays a crucial role in all stages of production, safeguarding and facilitating the transportation of goods for manufacturers, transporters, supermarkets, restaurants, and households.

However, the environmental impact of packaging is significant. In 2021, the average packaging waste generated per EU resident was 189 kilograms, reflecting a 20% increase over the past decade. Country-specific figures varied, ranging from 74 kilograms per person in Croatia to 246 kilograms per person in Ireland. The EU collectively produced 84.3 million tonnes of packaging waste in 2021, a 4.8 million-tonne increase from the previous year. The predominant materials in this waste were paper and cardboard (40.3%), plastic (19%), glass (18.5%), wood (17.1%), and metal (4.9%).

While 64% of packaging waste was recycled in 2021, and approximately 80% was recovered (including recycling), the environmental toll persists. To address these concerns, the EU has established rules on packaging and packaging waste since 1994, with modifications in 2018. The overarching objective is to create a circular economy by 2050, and a proposal from November 2022 is being considered by the Parliament for further updates to these rules.

The Parliament's environment committee, adopting its position in October 2023, has outlined key objectives. These include banning the sale of very lightweight plastic carrier bags, setting specific waste reduction targets for plastic packaging, promoting reuse and refill options through criteria for reusable packaging, and allowing consumers to bring their own containers for take-away food and drinks. Additionally, the committee seeks to ban persistent pollutants, often referred to as forever chemicals, used in fireproofing or waterproofing food packaging due to potential health implications.

The next steps involve a vote by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on these proposals during the plenary session on November 20-23, 2023. Following the vote, MEPs will engage in negotiations with the Council on the legislative text to advance these proposed changes.


Keywords

Packaging Diversity , Environmental Impact , Packaging Waste , Circular Economy , EU Regulations

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