Cornerstones of the new EU packaging regulation defined

At their plenary session on November 22, 2023, the 705 members of the European Parliament (EP) voted on the European Commission's draft of the new EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) within the first reading. The PPWR’s aim is to realign the principles for handling and disposing of packaging in the member states of the European Union. After a decision by the Council in decembre 2023, the trilogue is expected to follow, which should then be completed in February 2024.

The draft PPWR presented by the EU Commission in November 2022 had already led to intensive national and international discussions (article of December 15, 2022). The DPG took a stand in an official statement and reports partial success (official statement of March 30, 2023).

Achieving first partial success

With regard to the four core demands, not everything that the DPG and its shareholders had hoped for from the European Parliament (EP) vote has been achieved thus far. However, a first partial success can be recorded. To put the current results into context, a brief overview: the discussions on the new EU Packaging Regulation are essentially aiming to ensure sustainable material cycles and achieve the goals of the Green Deal, which stipulates that all packaging on the EU market can be recycled economically by 2030. It is undisputed that deposit and return systems play a key role in achieving these goals - they are the key players.

Grace period for national deposit labels

Against this background, the DPG spoke out in favor of retaining the already established deposit markings (DPG logo) and - as a compromise - a parallel structure of national and Europe-wide valid markings. With partial success! In order to safeguard the existing consumer orientation, but also the special security features against fraud relating to the sorting technology and reliable deposit clearing, the Parliament's position now includes a 36-month transitional period for existing European deposit systems - including those in Scandinavia, the Baltic states, Germany, Belgium, Croatia and the Netherlands. Within this period, the successfully introduced DPG logo will continue to be used and a Europe-wide binding labeling requirement is to be re-discussed. The PPWR does not yet make a clear statement on security markings. However, the clarification that national deposit/security markings may also be used in the long term and without restriction remains of central importance.

Agreement on a binding minimum filling quantity

In order to enable deposit systems to continue to work in the future, the EP has followed the recommendations of the Impact Assessment Report (EU Commission) and has come out in favor of a minimum capacity of 0.1 liters for single-use beverage containers subject to a deposit. From the DPG's point of view and in the interest of nationally successful systems, this result receives support and aligns with the aims.

Fixed communication costs overturned

In order to communicate the objectives and regulations of the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), the draft required all participating institutions/companies to make a financial commitment to communication.. These were to be based on a fixed percentage of the respective previous year's turnover - without differentiating between already established deposit systems and completely new ones to be installed. After almost 20 years of successful market presence and a regular response rate of over 98%, the DPG also considered this requirement to be not target-oriented. The EP vote has now confirmed this view, as have many other European deposit systems. The requirement for necessary communication efforts now allows for a more differentiated approach.

Protection for existing deposit systems must remain under discussion

The Green Deal stipulates that packaging should be fully recyclable by 2030. According to EU law, PET beverage bottles must consist of a quarter recycled material from 2025 onward (30% in 2030). In order to achieve these targets, functioning deposit systems with high return rates are required. In other words: This goal can only be achieved within and not against existing structures. This also applies to the complex process of deposit clearing and the return of single-use beverage containers, which is not yet organized at all or very differently in the member states. The current version of the PPWR does not yet take sufficient account of effective protection for established deposit systems, which means that the DPG system would be at risk. The debates to date and the concerns expressed by the DPG about the current PPWR draft will hopefully lead to further discussions on this point and the search for new solutions.

Next phase

Nonetheless, the decisions of the EU Commission and the European Parliament do not mark the end of the European packaging law implementation process - the next step is the EU Council’s decision in decembre 2023. This could still provide for substantial changes before the targets and clauses go into the so-called trilogue. The trilogue is a tripartite meeting with representation of the legislative institutions of the European Union: the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the EP to negotiate a final version of the law.
The DPG and its shareholders still see a need for improvement in the current draft status of the PPWR. For this reason, by providing information on how deposit systems work and the legal framework conditions required for their successful operation, efforts will continue to be made to ensure that the relevant points in the PPWR are adapted in order to protect the correct and important EU initiative from possible ecological setbacks, such as the unnecessary curtailment of the efficiency of existing systems.

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