Eurochambres position on the European Commission’s proposal for a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR)
Eurochambres welcomes proposal for a packaging and packaging waste regulation (PPWR) as it offers an opportunity to advance the circular economy, reduce waste, minimize environmental degradation and create new market opportunities. However, we have concerns about some measures in the proposed regulation, such as a "one-size-fits-all" approach, the lack of feasibility and effective harmonization, as well as the over reliance on delegated acts.
Eurochambres generally welcomes the European Commission's proposal for a packaging and packaging waste regulation, which aims to advance a circular economy. This regulation offers an important opportunity to reduce waste, minimize environmental degradation, and lower processing and transportation costs. Additionally, it could create new market opportunities for businesses involved in recyclable material processing, waste management, and packaging manufacturing.
As the European chambers network, we welcome the commission’s plan to replace current packaging and packaging waste directive will be replaced with a more efficient and effective regulation. This will enhance legal certainty and ensure a level playing field for businesses operating in the European single market. We appreciate that the proposed regulation seeks to achieve this goal by harmonizing national measures concerning product packaging.
However, we do have concerns about some of the measures included in the proposed regulation. We fear that the new rules could have an adverse effect on the competitiveness of European businesses, especially SMEs, since some of the proposed requirements may be unclear, impractical and excessive. Furthermore, some measures could undermine existing recycling performance and structures. The European commission should prioritize the circular economy plan's central goal of preventing negative environmental impacts while ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market for packaging and packaged goods.
We have significant reservations regarding the excessive reliance on delegated acts in the proposed regulation, as they give rise to numerous uncertainties and ambiguities. At this point it is not possible to comment on the actual impact of the regulation as the content is not clear. Avoiding critical elements of the regulation through delegated acts and including them in the proposal instead would prevent sudden changes to the legal situation and ensure full involvement of member states and the European parliament.
Another critique of the proposal is that it overlooks crucial aspects of the market such as customer needs, marketing strategies, and regional differences. The proposal promotes a "one-size-fits-all" packaging approach that lacks distinct features and limits individual design options. This may even hinder the use of packaging materials that better suit the size and value of certain products.
To prevent waste, the proposal focuses on recyclability, use of recycled materials,
packaging prevention, and re-use. However, some articles lack balance and require clarification on practical implementation. Additionally, recycling and re-use should be complementary, not exclusive, based on scientific evidence for environmental, health, and economic factors.
Eurochambres’ main concerns
Besides the positive effects this proposal might have, some measures raise concerns over their clarity, practicality and effectiveness, while others may be excessive when compared to what they are trying to achieve. As chamber network we are especially concerned about the following elements:
- Lack of feasibility: To prevent waste, the EU Commission has emphasized the importance of recyclability, using recycled materials, packaging prevention, and re-use, in line with the European Green Deal. However, many of the articles related to these topics are incomplete, making it difficult to implement them as proposed. Additionally, it's unclear how some of the requirements should be interpreted in practice and what their intended impact and added value will be.
- Excessive use of delegated acts: As it currently stands, providing precise feedback is challenging since the proposal leaves many questions unanswered, relying on delegated acts for detailed implementation. Given the significant impact of the regulation on the environment, health, and the economy, it is crucial to subject important parts of it to the ordinary legislative procedure. Without substantial amendments, it will be difficult to make the regulation workable and supported by the affected economy.
- Lack of effective harmonization: The transition from a directive to a regulation is crucial for achieving harmonization in the free movement of goods and it should not be compromised by granting Member States the ability to exceed the established requirements. An effective internal market is one that upholds a level playing field in all Member States, and progress toward harmonization is commendable. Nevertheless, provisions which allow for the imposition of additional national labelling, pose a threat to these efforts.
- Role of governments and consumers: One of the requirements for packaging to be considered recyclable according to Art. 6 is that it is effectively and efficiently collected separately from other waste. While packaging manufacturers will face obligations to ensure the recyclability of their product, separation and collection must remain the obligations of national governments, and by extension, the households. Current waste collection and separation measures should be strengthened to ensure that production changes by manufacturers are translated into real environmental benefits. On packaging reuse, success will very much depend on consumer participation. If consumers are not willing or able to reuse packaging, businesses may struggle to meet the reuse targets, even if the packaging itself is technically reusable. This could be due to factors such as consumer convenience, cost, or simply a lack of awareness or understanding of the benefits of reuse. In this respect, consumer behaviour needs to be addressed as one of the key root causes of waste. The proposal would thus benefit for a dedicate chapter and/or provisions on the role of consumers.
- Need for clear deadlines and transitional periods: Meeting deadlines and ensuring consistency are crucial for effective and legally compliant implementation. However, there are concerns that the necessary legal acts may not be published in a timely manner, jeopardizing the ability of companies to comply with the regulations. With a significant number of delegated acts expected in the proposal, it is essential to establish a sufficient and realistic transitional period between the adoption of the delegated decision and the implementation of the recycling design. This will provide the industry and all economic operators with the necessary predictability and planning time. Additionally, we urge the Commission to provide specific deadlines for the delegated acts to ensure that companies can plan accordingly.
• Recycling and reuse as exclusive solutions: Rather than being mutually exclusive, recycling and re-use should be seen as complementary approaches to sustainable packaging. In fact, these two options can reinforce each other in important ways. When deciding whether to use recyclable or reusable packaging, it's crucial to base the decision on independent scientific evidence that takes into account environmental, health, and economic factors.
• Contradiction with product laws: The draft creates a division between products and their packaging, which may appear logical from a legal standpoint. However, in practice, this division can result in confusion and a lack of clarity. Regulations for items such as food packaging and medical devices are already outlined in their respective provisions. As a result, there is a risk of conflicting regulations.
• Lack of consideration of specialized food and medical packaging: Certain specialized packaging materials, such as those needed for certain types of food, including products for infants, young children, and individuals with medical needs, do not currently have recycled alternatives available. Due to technological limitations, compliance with existing regulations is not possible at this time. Unfortunately, the current proposal does not adequately address this issue, so adjustments are necessary in this regard.
- Elimination of the consumer acceptance criterion: While minimizing packaging waste is important, it should never come at the expense of safe transport or equipment protection. Unfortunately, the current proposal lacks clarity in its definition of "minimum necessary." Furthermore, the proposal appears to prioritize uniformity over individuality, disregarding consumer preferences, regional differences, and unique marketing strategies. In particular, premium products like cosmetics and spirits rely on distinctive packaging to distinguish themselves and meet consumer expectations. However, the proposed changes could limit the ability to create custom designs, even beyond just the choice of packaging material. By removing customer acceptance as a criterion, there is a concern that the industry will move towards a "one-size-fits-all" approach, which is not favourable.
- Unclear definitions: The current draft includes several definitions, such as those for "manufacturer," "producer," and "supplier." However, there appears to be a lack of clarity in distinguishing between these economic actors, which is crucial given the varying obligations associated with each role. To ensure proper understanding and adherence to these obligations, it is imperative that the demarcation between these roles is comprehensible and clarified.
- Over-ambitious supply chain approach: The proposed regulatory requirements and responsibilities imposed on every actor in the supply chain seem excessive, as certain aspects such as packaging do not affect all parties equally. Additionally, some individuals may lack the necessary expertise and resources to comply with these regulations effortlessly.
- Life cycle analysis needed: The use and design of packaging are closely tied to economic and population growth, consumer lifestyles (such as the growing number of single households), and other globalization trends. However, the Commission's impact assessment fails to consider packaging design in this broader context. All packaging is created with the goal of protecting, preserving, and transporting products. If products are lost or damaged due to inadequate packaging, any savings from reducing packaging would be outweighed by the increased environmental impact in terms of resource consumption and emissions generated. Therefore, any restrictions on the use of packaging should be supported by a comprehensive life cycle analysis (LCA) from the perspective of the affected economic community. This analysis would ensure that the restrictions do not have unintended consequences. If bans on certain packaging were implemented without careful consideration, the negative effects would likely outweigh any benefits.
- Standardizing transport packaging: In principle, standardizing transport packaging is a good idea, but the proposal lacks clarity on its economic viability. While standardization using pallets and box pool systems is already prevalent, re-usable systems may only be practical for transport aids in regional or supra-regional pool systems. However, when it comes to imports from third countries, re-usable packaging may result in negative environmental impacts due to longer transport routes. The lack of clear regulations on transport packaging for inter-European and international deliveries further exacerbates the issue, making it difficult to navigate even within a member state.
- Insufficient stakeholder involvement: Close coordination with the industry is crucial. It is imperative to involve the affected businesses to ensure practicable guidelines that can be implemented sensibly and cost-effectively. This approach will ensure that the guidelines are not only theoretical but also practical and in line with the industry's operations. European chambers must play a role in this regard.