All packaging in the EU market will be required to be fully recyclable by 2030, according to new proposed rules unveiled today by the European Commission, aimed at tackling growing packaging waste and supporting the EU’s climate and environmental goals.

In a statement introducing the new rules, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said that the proposals would “reduce packaging waste, promote reuse and refill, increase the use of recycled plastics, and make it easier to recycle packaging.”

According to the Commission, without action, packaging waste, which has already reached almost 180 kg per person per year in Europe, would increase by a further 19% by 2030, with plastic packaging waste increasing by 46%. Packaging accounts for 40% of plastics and 50% of paper used in the EU.

Timmermans said:

“European citizens are eager to be rid of overpackaging and unnecessarily bulky packages, and businesses are ready to move forward with sustainable, innovative packaging solutions and systems.”

The new proposals set a target to reduce packaging waste by 15% by 2040 per Member State per capita through reuse and recycling. Companies would be required to offer a certain percentage of their products to consumers in reusable or refillable packaging, and some standardization of packaging formats and clear labelling of reusable packaging will also be introduced.

The rules also aim to eliminate unnecessary packaging with bans on some packaging forms such as single-use packaging for food and beverages when consumed inside restaurants and cafes, single-use packaging for fruits and vegetables, miniature shampoo bottles and other miniature packaging in hotels.

Additional measures include setting design criteria for packaging, creating mandatory deposit return systems for plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and introducing mandatory rates of recycled content that producers will be required to include in new plastic packaging.

According to the Commission, the proposed rules would result in a 23 million tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, reduce water use by 1.1 million cubic meters and reduce environmental damage costs by €6.4 billion.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said:

“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.”

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