EU council, parliament reach provisional PPWR deal

  • Market: Petrochemicals
  • 05/03/24

Negotiators for EU's council of ministers and the European parliament have reached provisional agreement on revised packaging and packaging waste regulation (PPWR) which maintains recycling and recycled content targets, with some exemptions.

The provisional agreement requires formal approval by EU states and parliament before EU elections in June.

Council officials have yet to release a full text but say the agreement maintains "most" of the sustainability requirements for packaging and headline targets proposed by the European Commission. In November 2022, the commission proposed EU countries require, by 31 December 2025, a minimum of 65pc recycling by weight of all packaging waste generated, and minimums for plastic (50pc), wood (25pc), ferrous metals and glass (70pc), aluminium (50pc), and paper and cardboard (75pc).

It also said that headline minimum recycled content targets had been maintained. These are split by packaging category (see table). The commission will have to review the implementation of the 2030 targets and assess the feasibility of the 2040 targets.

Before the negotiations on 4 March, the commission and recycling industry representatives had raised concerns about "unintentional" trade impacts stemming from the definition of post-consumer plastic waste linked to recycled content targets, which was amended to include imported material in a recent leaked draft of the EU's implementing decision for the Single Use Plastics directive (SUPD).

A European recycling association told Argus that the council and parliament are understood to have agreed requirements on recycled plastic imports to meet EU-equivalent environmental and quality standards, such as separate collection, which it said "goes in the right direction as it is highly needed to protect the European recycling industry from massive and fraudulent imports".

But it said that this definition for post-consumer recyclates does not yet appear to be agreed by the European commission. And it called for a "robust traceability system, verified by independent third-party… to ensure that plastics labelled as recycled are actually recycled under equivalent conditions to those set in the EU".

Non-governmental organisation Zero Waste Europe (ZWE)'s Chemical Recycling and Plastic-to-Fuels Policy Officer Lauriane Veillard pointed positively to recognition of a difference between recycling technologies. "However, the absence of the commission's support for the final text due to the issue of imported recycled plastic is worrying as it is of utmost importance that recycled materials are of the same quality and meet the same requirements wherever they are produced," said Veillard.

Officials note the deal exempts compostable plastic packaging and packaging with a plastic component under 5pc of total weight from targets.

Parliament said members had negotiated a ban on very lightweight plastic carrier bags, below 15 microns, unless required for hygiene reasons or provided as primary packaging to avoid food wastage.

The text, though, follows EU states, when setting a 50pc, rather than parliament's 40pc, threshold on the ratio of empty space in "grouped, transport and e-commerce packaging" for products supplied to final distributors or end-users. And cardboard packaging is generally exempted from binding re-use targets for 2030 and from indicative targets for 2040. Targets vary depending on packaging type and use.

Member states are normally obliged, by 2029, to ensure separate collection of at least 90pc/yr of single-use plastic bottles and metal beverage containers via deposit return systems (DRS).

The parliament and EU states agreed a restriction on food contact packaging containing per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), albeit above certain thresholds. ZWE welcomed the phasing out of PFAs in food packaging but expressed "deep concern" over exemptions for paper-based and composite packaging as well as the deal deleting reuse targets for the takeaway sector.

EU proposed sustainability measures
20302040
Recycling content requirements
Single-use plastic beverage bottles30%65%
PET contact-sensitive packaging30%50%
Non-PET contact-sensitive packaging10%50%
Other packaging35%65%

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