EU unveils new plans to cut plastic and packaging waste

Under the proposals, single-use packaging for food and beverages when consumed inside restaurants and cafes, mini shampoo bottles and mini packaging in hotels will be banned

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The European Commission has proposed new EU-wide rules to get rid of unnecessary packaging, provide clear labels to support correct recycling and slash plastic use.

Under the proposals, certain forms of packaging will be banned, including single-use packaging for food and beverages when consumed inside restaurants and cafes, single-use packaging for fruits and vegetables, mini shampoo bottles and mini packaging in hotels.

Many measures aim to make packaging fully recyclable by 2030, including setting design criteria for packaging, creating mandatory deposit return schemes for plastic bottles and aluminium cans and making it clear which types of packaging must be compostable, clearing up confusion on which packaging belongs to which recycling bin.

There will also be mandatory rates of recycled content that producers have to include in new plastic packaging.

The target is to reduce packaging waste by 15% by 2040 per member state per capita, compared to 2018, which would lead to an overall waste reduction in the EU of around 37% compared to a scenario without changing the legislation.

By 2030, the proposed measures are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from packaging to 43 million tonnes compared to 66 million if the legislation is not changed.

In addition, water use would be reduced by around 1.1 million cubic meters and the costs of environmental damage for the economy would fall by €6.4 billion (£5.5bn), relative to the 2030 baseline.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries said: “We have all received products ordered online in excessively large boxes. And we have often wondered how to separate waste for recycling, what to do with that biodegradable bag, or if all this packaging will be used again or at least turned into new valuable materials. Each day we produce half a kilogram of packaging waste per person.

“With the new rules we propose crucial steps to make sustainable packaging the norm in the EU. We will create the right conditions for the circular economy principles – reduce, reuse, recycle – to work. More sustainable packaging and bioplastics are about new business opportunities in the green and digital transition, about innovation and new skills, local jobs and savings for consumers.”