Packaging waste generation on the rise and new rules to reduce it

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This edition focuses on packaging and its environmental impact. The use of packaging in the EU is on the rise, prompting the introduction of new regulations to tackle packaging waste. Keep reading this article and stay updated on the latest EU-level packaging developments.

New rules to reduce, reuse, and recycle packaging

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has given the green light to new proposals aimed at facilitating the reuse and recycling of packaging, reducing unnecessary packaging and waste, and encouraging the use of recycled materials. Here are the main points:

  1. No more very lightweight plastic bags: Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want to stop the sale of very lightweight plastic carrier bags (those less than 15 microns thick). These bags are often not durable and end up as litter.
  2. Targets for less plastic packaging: There are new goals to reduce plastic packaging waste. By 2030, MEPs want to cut it by 10%, by 2035, it should be reduced by 15%, and by 2040, they aim for a 20% reduction.
  3. Reusing and refilling: The rules aim to make it clear when packaging can be used again or refilled. This helps reduce the need for new packaging.
  4. Bringing your own container: Places that sell drinks and take-away food should let customers bring their own containers. This cuts down on single-use packaging.
  5. Separate collection of packaging materials: By 2029, countries in the European Union need to make sure that 90% of materials contained in packaging are collected separately. This helps recycle more and reduce waste.

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Packaging waste is increasing

According to data on packaging waste published by Eurostat, the European Union generated huge quantities of packaging waste in 2021. Each person in the EU produced about 188.7 kg of packaging waste. That’s 10.8 kg more per person than in 2020, the biggest increase in a decade. In 2021, the EU as a whole generated 84 million tonnes of packaging waste, with paper and cardboard making up 40.3% of it, plastic 19.0%, glass 18.5%, wood 17.1%, and metal 4.9%.

When it comes to plastic packaging waste, the average person in the EU produced 35.9 kg in 2021, of which 14.2 kg were recycled. Compared to 2020, both the generation of plastic packaging waste and its recycling increased, with generation rising by 1.4 kg per capita (4.0%) and recycling increasing by 1.2 kg per capita (9.5%). These numbers show that we need better ways to deal with packaging waste and to protect our environment. Waste prevention has to lead the transition.

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