The Council has reached a consensus on a proposal for a regulation addressing packaging and packaging waste in the European Union (EU). The primary objective is to tackle the rising issue of packaging waste in the EU while promoting a harmonized internal market for packaging and fostering a circular economy. In 2021, each European generated 190kg of packaging waste, a figure projected to increase by nearly 20% in 2030 without intervention.

The proposal encompasses the entire life cycle of packaging, emphasizing safety and sustainability. It mandates that all packaging be recyclable, minimizing the presence of harmful substances. The regulation includes labeling requirements to enhance consumer information and aligns with the waste hierarchy by setting re-use targets, limiting specific single-use packaging, and urging economic operators to minimize packaging use.

Once packaging becomes waste, the proposal aims to ensure its high-standard collection, sorting, and recycling. Criteria for extended producer responsibility schemes are outlined, with flexibility for member states to maintain well-functioning systems. The Council’s general approach will guide negotiations with the European Parliament for the final legislation.

Key changes include maintaining the broad scope of the Commission’s proposal, sustainability requirements for all packaging, and headline targets. The Council strengthened requirements for substances in packaging and introduced conditions for considering packaging recyclable by 2035. Targets for minimum recycled content in plastic packaging by 2030 and 2040 are maintained, with a review scheduled for 2034. Specific packaging items, like tea bags and labels, are required to be compostable.

The legislation introduces headline targets for reducing packaging waste by 5% in 2030, 10% in 2035, and 15% in 2040, subject to review. Member states can implement additional waste prevention measures. Reusable packaging criteria and new re-use targets for 2030 and 2040 are defined, with exemptions and the possibility of forming pools for economic operators.

Deposit return schemes (DRS) for single-use plastic bottles and metal beverage containers are mandated by 2029, requiring a 90% annual collection. Exemptions exist for existing systems meeting the target by 2029. Restrictions on certain packaging formats, including single-use plastic packaging, are introduced, with provisions for member states to set exemptions.

The Council’s amendments also address labeling, operator obligations, and extend the regulation’s application date. This general approach, serving as the Council’s negotiation mandate, sets the stage for discussions with the European Parliament on finalizing the legislation. The proposed regulation aims to transform Europe into a sustainable, circular economy, aligned with the European Green Deal, addressing the shortcomings of the current EU packaging and packaging waste directive adopted in 1994.
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