EU parliament approves law to ban certain single-use plastic packaging


(Photo: iStock)

As part of the European Union’s effort to curb the increasing waste from packaging, the European Parliament has approved a law that will ban certain single-use plastic packaging. But NGOs have raised another “greenwashing" alarm over lenient approach of recycled plastic bottles and cans.

Based on recent data, annual packaging waste in the EU increased to a total of 84 million tons in 2021. However, the rate of packaging waste recycling in Europe has not kept pace with this growth. Without additional measures, the packaging waste is projected to continue rising.

The new law prohibits the use of single-use plastic packaging for fruits and vegetables, condiments in fast food restaurants, thin plastic bags for food items, as well as mini packaging for toiletry products in hotels from 2030. Beverage distributors must ensure that 10% of their products are packaged in reusable containers, excluding wine products. Additionally, takeaway food outlets will be required to offer customers the option to bring their own containers.

The regulation also includes that starting from 2029, European countries will be required to implement a deposit-return system for returning single-use plastic bottles and cans up to 90% annually.

Reuters reports, many Members of Parliament have complained of receiving extensive lobbying from industry representatives. Some countries, including Italy and Finland, have also sought exemptions for their local industries. Ultimately, the new regulations have lifted the bans on packaging for wine, paperboard, and single-use paper packaging.

After passing through Parliament, this policy will still need to be approved by individual member states of the European Union. Industry groups argue that the law allow too much flexibility, potentially leading to varying approaches to implementation.

Fansesca Stevens, the Secretary General of the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (Europen), stated that these divergent actions are not only detrimental to businesses, but also hinder the progress toward a circular economy.

In addition, Members of Parliament did not block the European Commission's proposal for the mass balance model, which determines recycled plastics in a more lenient manner. This decision has drawn criticism from anti-waste organizations for being overly favorable to chemical industry interests.

Lauriane Veillard, a policy researcher at Zero Waste Europe, has accused the European Parliament of being blindfolded, handing European consumers a broken umbrella in the greenwashing storm. This missed opportunity, she argues, not only impacts local recycling industries, small and medium-sized enterprises, but also consumers.

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