How should the EU deal with packaging waste?

The Commission’s circular economy strategy should promote incentives to minimise the use of packaging, particularly plastic, say MEPs.

How should the EU deal with packaging waste? | Photo credit: Adobe Stock

MEPs have been hard at work on the circular economy for years. A crucial component is packaging waste, an issue that has proven rather difficult to legislate on.

Josu Juaristi Abaunz, who is Parliament’s GUE/NGL group shadow rapporteur on packaging waste, believes there must be “a change in the socioeconomic model of consumption, so we end up consuming products with less or no packaging.” 

In order to bring about this change, he suggests “improving the eco-design of packaging and products, which would extend the life cycle of a product and its components.”


With regards to waste that has already been generated, the Spanish MEP says, “waste legislation has the answer: the waste hierarchy. In other words, encourage reuse and recycling, away from incineration and disposal, since both (incineration and disposal) involve the total loss of essential materials and resources and are harmful to the environment and health.”

Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur Davor Škrlec says, “packaging waste is one of the key elements in circular economy, because it consists of valuable waste streams which are crucial for the functioning secondary raw material market. These materials are of the highest quality and have the biggest potential for preparation for re-use and recycling.”

He adds, “There is also huge potential in bio-based materials, however we need to ensure the sustainable management of the biofeed stocks essential for their production.

“There are many competing industries, from bio-based packaging to biofuels, thus if we aim for a credible phase-out of fossil fuels from our material streams, we need to ensure proper life-cycle assessment which should lead us to better policy choices and higher resource efficiency.”

Piernicola Pedicini, who is the EFDD group’s shadow rapporteur on the dossier, says, “The best way to address the problem of waste caused by packaging is to fight excessive and unnecessary packaging and therefore take actions to prevent and reduce packaging waste. The amount of packaging in everyday products is astonishing.

“Combined with our ‘throw away’ culture, it has made packaging waste an issue to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Excess packaging, in particular plastic packaging, has polluted our land and oceans.

“I look forward to seeing the Commission proposal to tackle specifically plastic waste. EU legislation must promote practices to minimise the use of packaging, such as the take-back and refill systems.”

The Italian deputy says, “Member states should also encourage the use of reused and recycled materials in packaging to reduce the impact of packaging on the environment. 

“The use of reusable packaging should be incentivised, such as by establishing a minimum percentage of reusable packaging to be marketed each year and by packaging category as well as provide economic incentives to manufacturers of reusable packaging. 

“The setting of ambitious reuse and recycling targets for packaging is crucial to minimise the impact of packaging on the environment.”


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