The European Commission has presented new rules for the packaging industry that will come into force from 2025 and require that by 2030 all packaging used in the bloc is suitable for secondary recycling. The requirements, which replace the 1994 Eurocom packaging and packaging waste directive, will also introduce a unified marking system for secondary recycling throughout the EU, targets for the content of secondary recycling for plastic packaging, and require labels for fresh produce to be biodegradable. All packaging will undergo an assessment to ensure it is designed for secondary recycling, with grades ranging from A to E. E-rated packaging will be banned from the general market from 2030, while categories A to D will be subject to extended producer responsibility fees, which will provide a financial incentive to produce easily recyclable packaging. Manufacturers exporting to Europe will also have to comply with the requirements.
UK firms with sales of more than £1m ($1.4m), that produce packaging or packaged goods, were required to begin collecting data on packaging from 1 January 2023. These companies will be required to pay an annual fee to the UK environmental regulator from 2024, or earlier for companies with turnovers above £2m or that produce more than 50 tonnes of packaging or packaged goods a year.
Beatrice Klose, secretary general of Intergraf, a trade association that promotes and protects the interests of the European graphics industry, spoke about the EU’s new standards: “This far-reaching directive is an important step forward in the EU’s efforts to create a more sustainable packaging industry in Europe…This will have a significant impact on the printing and packaging industry, which will need to find new and innovative ways to reduce waste and increase recycling.”
The new regulation will also introduce a new system of pictographic labels for secondary recycling, which will help consumers recycle packaging correctly. Reusable packaging will also have to be labelled with a QR code, and return schemes will be mandatory for plastic bottles and metal cans. Manufacturers will also have to comply with mandatory inclusion standards for recycled plastic when producing new plastic packaging.
It is expected that this directive will negate the predicted 19% increase in packaging waste in the EU by 2030 and provide a basis for further reforms. The European Commission also stated that it expects the packaging sector to create jobs and business opportunities in the recycling and circular economy.