The European Commission has ambitious plans to reduce the amount of packaging waste. By 2030 – eight years from now – all packaging must be recyclable, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by twenty million tonnes.
Beer in reusable bottles
By 2040, the amount of packaging waste per inhabitant must decrease by 15 % compared to 2018: this is the core of the European Commission’s new plan proposed yesterday by European Commissioners Frans Timmermans and Virginijus Sinkevičius. To achieve that, drastic measures will be needed. Indeed, if we carry on like this, packaging waste will increase by 19 %, according to the European Union, and plastic waste would increase by as much as 46 %.
The Commission is therefore proposing a series of concrete measures. For example, all packaging must be recyclable by 2030. Packaging should then be as reusable or refillable as possible, and what remains should become biodegradable or recyclable. For instance, 10 % of beer should be sold in refillable bottles by 2030, and double that by 2040. There is also talk of a deposit on plastic bottles and aluminium beverage containers.
In addition, plastic packaging will then be required to consist partly of recycled material, as in the case of PET bottles or recycled cardboard. Vague descriptions such as “bioplastic” or “biodegradable” will then also be out of the question: Europe wants producers to state explicitly how long it takes for the packaging to degrade and exactly how much plastic it contains. There will also be requirements for that degradation time: stickers on fruit, tea bags, coffee capsules and thin plastic bags must decompose within two years.
No more fruit trays or sugar sachets
Disposable packaging in the catering industry will even be banned altogether. By 2040, the Commission wants 80 % of takeaway cups for example to be reusable, while the familiar sachets of sugar or cups of sauce or coffee creamer will be banned. Disposable packaging for fruit and vegetables or small shampoo bottles in hotels are also set to disappear. In turn, packaging for online orders, for example, will be allowed to contain a maximum of 40 % empty space.
Although the measures will initially entail additional costs, in the long run they will mainly bring economic benefits. “We are creating a new economy for reuse”, Timmermans emphasises. He even predicts 600,000 additional jobs thanks to the recycling industry. Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by over twenty million tonnes, and overall environmental damage should be reduced by 6.4 billion euros by 2030.
However, the proposals still have to pass the European Parliament and member states for approval. At least three years are expected to pass before the measures are actually implemented anyway.