This week marks the start of technical trilogues negotiations on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). The co-legislators of the European Union (EU), the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, endorsed their final positions on the text respectively on 22 November and 18 December 2023. You can find the European Parliament’s Final Report here, and the Council of the EU’s General Approach here.
Their objective is to reach a final agreement, which will then enter into force throughout the 27 Member States following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. As a reminder, the new Regulation aims to clarify and harmonise packaging rules across the EU, while proposing increased ambition to improve the sustainability of packaging and the reduction of packaging waste.
Void space ratio
Throughout the institutional negotiations, Ecommerce Europe has expressed concerns regarding Article 21 of the European Commission’s proposal. This article stipulates that economic operators supplying products in grouped, transport or e-commerce packaging must ensure that the ratio of empty space in the packaging, in relation to the packaged product(s), does not exceed 40 %.
Ecommerce Europe believes that the provision as proposed by the European Commission does not account for a number of cases where the implementing the 40% void space limit would be difficult or impossible, and would lead to disproportionate economic impact on merchants, especially SMEs. Therefore, Ecommerce Europe welcomed the removal of the 40% void space limit in the Final Report endorsed by the European Parliament. The Council, however, while not going as far, has increased the void-space limit to 50% in its General Approach.
The Council’s final text also introduced a deadline stating that the measure will start to apply as of 2030, or 36 months after the entry into force of the delegated acts, whichever the latest. Additionally, it stated that 3 years after the entry into force of the Regulation, the European Commission will have to adopt an implementing act to establish the methodology for the calculation of the empty space ratio. This methodology will have to consider specific characteristics which Ecommerce Europe has been underlining in its advocacy efforts.
In Article 9 of its proposal, the European Commission requires the minimisation of the weight and volume of the packaging with due account taken of the packaging’s safety and functionality. The Council’s General Approach clarified that the responsibility for minimising packaging lies with the manufacturer or importer, and introduced an exemption for packaging of products featuring a protected design or trademark. In contrast, the European Parliament’s final report imposed a deadline to the minimisation requirements, setting it for 1 January 2030.
Lastly, both institutions mandated the European Commission to request the European standardisation organisations to develop harmonised standards on the methodology for calculating compliance with the packaging minimisation requirements. However, there is a discrepancy in the deadlines between the Council, which set it at 12 months after the entry into force of the Regulation, and the European Parliament, which extended the deadline to 36 months.
The European Commission’s proposal lays down a number of targets on the re-use of packaging for different sectors, including two targets for the e-commerce sector set at 10% by 1 January 2030, and 50% by 1 January 2040 (Article 26.8). The European Parliament, in its Final Report, eliminated the second target for 2040, and MEPs decided to include “at least” in the first 2030 target. In contrast, the Council made minor alterations to the initial proposal, while also introducing the wording “at least” in both targets. This addition allows Member States to impose higher targets at national level, potentially fostering market fragmentation across Europe.
Extended Producer Responsibility
In Article 39, the European Commission proposes to establish a register to help monitoring the compliance of producers with extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules. Article 39.11 establishes an obligation for the European Commission to adopt implementing acts defining the registration format no later than one year after the date of entry into force of the Regulation.
While the Parliament made no changes to this provision, the Council’s final text specified that the reporting format shall be interoperable, based on open standards and machine-readable data, and shall be transferable through an interoperable data exchange network without vendor lock-in. Furthermore, Article 40 lays down that producers that make available packaging on the market for the first time within the territory of a Member State will have extended producer responsibility for their packaging. Article 40.3 specifically targeted providers of online platforms with an obligation to obtain registration information and information on compliance before allowing producers to use their services.
The General Approach of the Council of the EU and Final Report of the European Parliament will serve as mandates for the inter-institutional negotiations. The Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU which started on 1 January will lead the negotiations. Belgians decided to initiate the talks with a technical trilogue on 10 January which will be followed by eight other technical meetings scheduled until 31 January. Only then will the Belgian Presidency hold the first political trilogue in early February with the objective to reach an agreement by early March at the latest.
The idea is to give the European Parliament enough time to vote on the text before the end of its term on 25 April due to the next EU elections which will take place on 6-9 June. Ecommerce Europe will continue with its outreach activities towards policymakers throughout the inter-institutional negotiations to advocate for packaging rules that work for e-sellers. You can find Ecommerce Europe’s full position paper on PPWR here.
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