Trilogue deal reached on EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation


Representatives of the European Parliament and the Council have agreed on a compromise on the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). It confirms the objective that all packaging placed on the EU market must be recyclable by 2030, as originally proposed by the EU Commission. However, no information is available yet on the agreed criteria for assessing recyclability.

The co-legislators' negotiation teams agreed 2030 and 2040 targets for minimum recycled content in plastic packaging. The provisional political agreement exempts compostable plastic packaging and packaging whose plastic component represents less than 5 per cent of the packaging’s total weight from those targets.

EU Commission rejects rules on third-country imports

A journalist writing for the French political news site Contexte reported on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) that the EU Commission has not yet backed the trilogue deal because it does not agree with provisions related to recycled plastics imported from non-EU countries.

At the heart of the disagreement is the question of whether recycled plastics imported from countries outside the EU that are used in the production of new packaging may be counted towards the fulfilment of EU recycled content targets. The Commission's original proposal included only recycled plastic that originates from post-consumer waste collected and recycled within the EU.

The European recycling and waste management industries have called on European lawmakers to retain this approach, arguing that irreparable harm would be done to recycling in the EU if recycled plastics imported from third countries were allowed to be counted towards the recycled content requirements. More recent drafts would have allowed recycled materials from third countries to be considered in the measurement of recycled content.

Should the Commission formally object to the amendments, the Regulation could only be adopted if the Council overrules the objection by unanimous decision. This could pose an insurmountable hurdle for the legislation. Italy's environment minister chose not to back the Council's negotiating mandate, citing his government's issues with the proposed provisions on compostable packaging, the bans on single-use packaging and the provisions on the reuse and refilling of packaging. According to German media reports, the Italian government had subsequently sought the support of Germany's finance minister in the creation of a blocking minority in the Council.

Less ambitious targets for re-use

With a view to packaging reuse, Frédérique Ries, the Parliament's rapporteur for the legislative project, reported that the agreed text will require that businesses which provide takeaway food and beverages allow customers to supply and use their own containers at no additional charge.  

In its own announcement, the Council said that the compromise will require that by 2030, 10 per cent of take-away products be offered in packaging formats suitable for re-use.

Binding re-use targets for other packaging applications are to go into effect in 2030 and additional indicative targets in 2040. Cardboard packaging is generally exempt from these targets. A renewable five-year derogation from the reuse targets would be available to member states meeting performance criteria for packaging waste prevention and recycling, the Council noted.

In a move Ms Ries called "a big victory for the health of European consumers", the compromise includes a ban on per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in food-contact packaging beginning in 2026. The Commission had argued against the addition of the PFAS measures by the EU Parliament, maintaining that this class of persistent substances should be regulated under forthcoming chemicals legislation. These concerns have been addressed with the inclusion of a review clause in the PPWR compromise. "To avoid any overlap with other pieces of legislation, the co-legislators tasked the Commission with assessing the need to amend that restriction within four years of the date of application of the regulation."

The trilogue compromise contains a series of waste prevention targets for all packaging materials taken together, with a reduction of 5 per cent compared to the baseline year 2018 to be achieved by 2030, 10 per cent by 2035 and 15 per cent by 2040, as originally proposed by the EU Commission.

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