November 30, 2022
The Rethink Plastic alliance welcomes the European Commission’s circular economy package, with proposed reuse targets and strengthened measures for plastics, packaging and waste.
The European Commission has published today its second Circular Economy Package, including initiatives on packaging and biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics . The publication of a proposal for a Regulation on Green Claims, expected since 2020 and to be part of today’s package, has been postponed again to early 2023.
Provided they are followed through with appropriate ambition, the proposal and communication released today could go a long way in reducing packaging consumption and pollution by addressing unnecessary packaging, scaling up reuse systems, and preventing regrettable material substitution. Yet, the alliance regrets that the proposal on green claims was postponed, as it is urgent to end unfounded sustainability claims from companies.
The alliance welcomes the unprecedented focus on prevention and reuse in the proposed EU Packaging and packaging waste regulation (PPWR), which sets the conditions for packaging to be allowed on the EU market. The proposal notably sees new reuse targets by 2030 and 2040 for different sectors, including the beverage sector (soft and alcoholic beverages), the take-away sector and e-commerce. The alliance regrets however that the initial ambition on reuse targets was watered down under industry pressure, with major beverage companies still coming out as top plastic polluters globally.
Larissa Copello, Consumption and Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe: ‘The proposal lays down crucial packaging and packaging waste reduction and reuse measures, but falls short of its objective to achieve 100% reusable or recycling packaging by 2030. Large-scale implementation of reuse packaging systems across Europe requires more ambition, and targets should be higher and broadened to other market sectors to ensure true circularity, driving investments in the right direction.’
The alliance also welcomes that the European Commission is taking action on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics, which are too often wrongly presented as a solution to the plastic pollution crisis. The proposed EU policy framework on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics aims at providing a harmonised EU approach with regard to these materials through providing recommendations on the sourcing, labelling and use of bio-based plastics, as well as on the use of biodegradable and compostable plastics.
The communication, which is not legally binding, notes the importance of respecting the waste hierarchy and that priority should be given to material use reduction and circularity.It notably makes it explicit that no claims should be made on the biodegradation of litter-prone products, including products covered by the Single-Use Plastics Directive. However, it does not set a clear path of regulatory action to ensure that the principles are followed. The alliance regrets some inconsistency of the PPWR with the welcomed careful approach taken in the policy framework as far as biodegradability and compostability of packaging are concerned.
Gaëlle Haut, EU affairs coordinator at Surfrider Europe, said:
“The Commission’s communication brings clarity on the challenges and uncertainties posed by bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics and their use. Further action on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics is needed though to reflect the urgency to transition to a zero pollution, climate-resilient and circular economy – and should take the form of legal measures and robust safeguards to address both their single-use nature and our reliance on toxic plastics .”
Ioana Popescu, Head of Circular Economy at the Environmental Coalition on Standards said: “For bio-based plastics, the message is clear: preference should always be given to longlasting, reusable products because their potential sustainability credentials are directly reversed when these are used in short lived applications such as single-use packaging. ”
The proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation will be discussed and amended in the European Parliament and the Council (i.e. Member States) from early 2023, with negotiations expected to conclude late 2023 – early 2024.
Notes to editors
 Communication of he Commission on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics available here
Proposal for Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation available here
Commission Press release: European Green Deal: Putting an end to wasteful packaging, boosting reuse and recycling available here
Reaction of the Environmental Coalition on Standards available here
Reaction of European Environmental Bureau available here
Niamh Cullen, Communications Coordinator at the Rethink Plastic alliance [email protected], +32 497 83 23 24
Larissa Copello, Consumption and Production Campaigner at Zero Waste Europe
Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Deputy Policy Manager for Circular Economy European Environmental Bureau
For biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics
Ioana Popescu, Head of Circular Economy at the Environmental Coalition on Standards
Gaëlle Haut, EU Affairs Coordinator at Surfrider Foundation Europe
For further information:
Realising Reuse report – Rethink Plastic alliance
A Just Transition to Reuse – Rethink Plastic alliance,
Too Good To be True? Green Claims report – Environmental Coalition on Standards
Fifty shades of Ocean (plastic) washing briefing – Surfrider Foundation Europe, Rethink Plastic alliance
What the EU can do to reduce single use packaging and plastic pollution in food services? policy briefing – Surfrider Foundation Europe, Rethink Plastic alliance