Navigating The EU’s Packaging Regulations

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sustainable packaging

We all know the reasons why we need to ensure sustainability and to streamline packaging operations by switching to more sustainable products, such as paper. That’s why the EU is tackling the issue with a new Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. Our comprehensive guide for businesses will help to navigate the change.


Even though we are all more aware of the need to reduce packaging waste and, especially, plastic packaging, we are still producing a growing amount of packaging waste. In the EU between 2009 and 2020, the total mass of packaging waste rose by 20 percent.

It is this enduring – and growing – problem that the EU has set out to tackle.


A history of EU efforts to drive a more sustainable approach to packaging

The EU has already taken several steps to drive towards a more circular and sustainable economy.

This includes:

  • In 2019, the Single Use Plastics Directive prohibited nine types of single-use plastics, including some packaging items made of expanded polystyrene, including food containers.
  • This Directive also requires member states to take measures to reduce other plastic packaging waste by 2026 (compared to 2022 levels), including food and beverage covers and lids intended for takeaway and on-the-spot consumption.
  • In the European Green Deal communication articulated in 2019, the EU also stated its intention to ensure all packaging in the EU is reusable or recyclable in an economically viable manner by 2030.
  • In October 2020, the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability set out a new long-term chemicals policy vision, which included measures to minimize the use of “substances of concern” in packaging and food packaging and support non-toxic material cycles.
  • In November 2022, the EU’s proposal for its Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation was published.


What will the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation mean for business?

The Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) incorporates several important approaches:

  • Ensuring all packaging must be recyclable by 2030
  • Promoting reuse and refill
  • Banning specific types of (plastic) packaging
  • Reducing overall packaging waste: a 15 percent decrease per capita from a 2018 baseline by 2040.

The EU has recognized that there are differences in circularity rates amongst member states. However, it emphasizes that improving waste management is important in all member states, including those with high recycling rates.

The regulation sets out targets for recycling and refill rates that will be required for different types of packaging, including for: large household appliances; cold or hot beverages; take-away and ready-prepared food; alcoholic beverages; wine (except sparkling wine); non-alcoholic beverages; transport packaging; e-commerce transport packaging; pallet wrappings and straps; grouped packaging.



In addition to defining these targets for 2025 and 2030, the regulation also sets out requirements for labelling, marking and information requirements. Three-and-a-half years after the regulation comes into force, packaging will need to be marked with a label which presents information about its material composition. This specification applies to e-commerce packaging, but not other types of transport packaging. Packaging that is subject to deposit and return systems will also need to be marked with a specific label.


What now?

Find more information about packaging and waste management elsewhere on r blog: