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“A massive competitive advantage”: EU member states formally agree to new PPWR despite concerns

#“A massive competitive advantage”: EU member states formally agree to new PPWR despite concerns

18 Mar 2024 — EU member states agreed to the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) last Friday, ending speculation that the preliminary agreement could be blocked or stalled by the European Commission (EC). Rumors surfaced late last week that the EC’s Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade) was attempting to reopen negotiations.

The attempts were reportedly a result of the PPWR’s new rules on importing recycled plastics, which often come from countries that lack the EU’s stringent environmental standards. An agreement was reached, however, allowing imports meeting these standards.

The agreement, which was given preliminary approval two weeks ago, was formally adopted by the EU’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) on Friday afternoon.

New rules
The new PPWR stipulates a number of changes and mandatory targets for all member states. By 2029, all countries must collect at least 90% of single-use plastic bottles and metal beverage containers annually.

Deposit return systems (DRS) must be built to reach this goal unless already in place.

Member states will also be exempt if they reach a collection rate above 80% in 2026 and introduce an implementation plan to reach the 90% collection goal.

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For plastics, restrictions will be placed on fresh fruit and vegetable packaging, as well as carrier bags and cosmetic products. Recycled content from outside the EU will also be allowed under certain restrictions.

UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe, which campaigned for priority access to recyclate supplies (due to the industry’s leadership in DRS establishment), has not yet issued a statement.

Reuse and singe-use
One point of major contention in the lead-up to the PPWR has been the debate over reuse and single-use packaging, especially within the paper and cardboard industries.

LCAs commissioned by NGOs like Zero Waste Europe and by organizations like the European Paper Packaging Association (EPPA) contradict one another on what would have a heavier environmental impact.

Following Friday’s agreement, EPPA’s president Antonio D’Amato remarks: “Today marks a significant milestone in the development of the EU’s future economy. Government representatives have embraced a robust agreement that, while not perfect, is broadly aligned with the latest scientific evidence.”

“This is a PPWR that will make Europe more competitive and more sustainable and which does not jeopardize the single market or the EU’s world-leading recycling sector. In short, the new PPWR has seen the future of the circular economy prevail.”

“Thanks to constant investments totaling billions of euros, we have achieved very ambitious waste collection and recycling results that make it possible to combine economic growth and environmental sustainability. It’s no coincidence that the EU is the only continent to see its GHG emissions fall. Indeed, our CO2 emissions in the third quarter of 2023 were down 7.1% on the previous year.”

“This system is a massive competitive advantage of the EU, built on the positive collaboration of member states, institutions and European industries.”

This story will be updated with further industry reactions as they unfold.

By Louis Gore-Langton

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