EU diplomats endorse PPWR deal

  • : Petrochemicals
  • 24/03/15

EU diplomats today endorsed the EU parliament and council of EU member states' compromise agreement on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), which will — among other things — implement mandatory requirements for recycled content across almost all plastic packaging in the single market.

Parliament and member states provisionally agreed to the compromise on 5 March, but it was not agreed at the time by the European Commission. A particular sticking point centred around whether and how imported recyclates would be allowed to count towards the recycled content requirements, with the compromise saying that imports should be "subject to equivalent conditions with regard to emissions and separate collection and sustainability criteria for recycling technologies".

The commission said today it would not stand in the way of an agreement, an unnamed official told Argus. Some EU member states also expressed concerns, but none opposed and only two expressed reservation or had not reached an official position.

European recycling industry association Euric called the outcome of discussions a "significant milestone for the European recycling industry and circular value chains".

"Setting equivalent conditions that guarantee that imported recycled plastics meet equivalent standards to those set in the EU is vital for ensuring European industrial sovereignty and competitiveness", Euric president Olivier Francois said.

But it raised concerns about a clause granting member states freedom to prioritise access to recycled plastics "for use in applications where the distinct quality of the recycled material is preserved or recovered in such a way that it can be recycled further and used in the same way and for a similar application". This "risks disrupting the well-functioning internal market", Euric said.

It said that the focus should instead be on improving recyclability and collection rates to ensure access to recycled plastics. A similar debate has occurred with respect to the Single Use Plastics Directive which mandates recycled content in PET bottles in the EU from next year.

Concerns have also been raised about bans focussing primarily on plastic packaging, with exemptions for other packaging materials. German plastic packaging association IK's director-general Martin Engelmann highlighted single-use packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables. The commission initially proposed a material-neutral ban on these products, but the provisional compromise proposal narrows the ban to only plastic packaging, he said.

Special rules for plastic packaging, for instance, could be challenged as discriminatory in the European Court of Justice, he told Argus last week.

Engelmann also raised concerns this week about 100pc reuse requirement for industrial packaging used to transport goods between one company's sites within the EU, and 40pc reuse requirement for all other industrial packaging. Such a high level of reuse is "impossible to achieve for many packaging formats because, for example, it is not technically possible to reuse stretch film for pallet wrapping", he said.

Following today's meeting of EU diplomats, the provisional deal will be formally adopted first by parliament's environment committee and then the whole parliament. Following formal approval by EU ministers, the text could be on the EU statute books in the summer.

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