European Commission’s plans to reduce packaging waste


The EU circular economy agenda for 2022 has not yet come to an end. It still misses the official publication of two long awaited legislative initiatives – the proposal on substantiating green claims and a new instrument to revise the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD). While the form of the revision is still uncertain, due to a negative opinion issued by the Regulatory Scrutiny Board to transform the Directive into a Regulation, an unfinished draft of the proposal was circulated ahead of its official publication, slated for 30 November. Given its high relevance to the e-commerce sector, Ecommerce Europe provides, in this article, a first snapshot of what to expect from the upcoming proposal. 

The ongoing revamp of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) is one of the key elements in the EU’s plans to raise the ambition of waste prevention and reduction in order to meet the high targets for a more circular economy. Together with a targeted revision of the EU’s Waste Framework Directive, scheduled for 2023, the new rules are expected to better address shortcomings in the current regulatory framework with regards to waste minimisation and end-of-life management. Concretely, the draft text includes packaging minimisation requirements as of 2030 for primary and secondary packaging, including e-commerce and transport packaging, mainly relying on a strict definition of empty space ratio permitted for these types of packaging.  

Wide-ranging labelling requirements are laid down in the draft Regulation to facilitate consumers’ sorting and disposal of packaging. While the obligation does not apply to transport packaging, also known as tertiary package, it is supposed to catch secondary package (i.e., e-commerce packaging). Beside displaying instructions on how to recycle the given packaging, other labels are set to be phased in, notably providing indications the reusability of the container and on the share of recycled content, if relevant. The unfinished bill also includes new rules regarding the applicability of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to packaging for the purpose of the draft Regulation. 

In the draft, the European Commission identifies the boom of e-commerce as one of the drivers of an increased packaging waste generation. However, the text lacks clarity to address the complexity of what is simply referred to as “e-commerce packaging”, which is actually the result of the interactions of different economic actors across the supply chain.  

While Ecommerce Europe shares the objective to reduce packaging and packaging waste, we will ensure that the diversity of business models and the granularity of the packaging logistics chain for our sector will be reflected in the negotiations. We will be closely following the developments with regards to this crucial file in the upcoming weeks.