Revision of the EU’s Packaging and Waste Directive

Introduction – Packaging and Waste

The introduction of the new Single-Use Plastics Directive has had a profound affect upon packaging and recycling legislative portfolios. With the new EU Commission and Parliament set to begin their policy work shortly, the revision of the recent 2018 EU Packaging Waste Directive has already begun in earnest. 2020 looks set to be a big year for packaging and waste, with wholesale reforms of the 2018 directive set to take place.

Circular Economy Package

As part of the EU’s Circular Economy package, in 2018 the EU adopted four directives which amended the following legislative dossiers:

  • The Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)Packaging and Waste Directive
  • The Landfilling Directive (1999/31/EC)
  • The Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC)
  • The Directives on end-of-life vehicles (2000/53/EC), on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators (2006/66/EC), and on waste electrical and electronic equipment (2012/19/EU)

Package Waste Directive (94/62/EC)

The goal of the revision of these four directives was to improve EU waste management and recycling rates. Taking the Packaging Waste Directive specifically, the revision in 2018 aimed to increase packaging waste recycling. The Directive obligates member states to meet targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste. The Directive covers all packaging placed on the Community market. Targets are set as a percentage of packaging flowing into the waste stream.

The Directive:

  • sets targets for recovery and recycling
  • requires the encouragement of the use of recycled packaging materials in the manufacturing of packaging and other products
  • requires packaging to comply with ‘essential requirements’ which include the minimisation of packaging volume and weight, and the design of packaging to permit its reuse or recovery
  • requires the implementation of measures to prevent packaging waste in addition to preventative measures under the ‘essential requirements’, which may include measures to encourage the re-use of packaging

Single Use Plastic Directive (SUP)

The Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive (COM(2018)0340-C8-0218/2018-2018/0172(COD)) was signed on the 5 June 2019 with the overarching objectives of taking bold action against litter and marine litter in particular and raising awareness about this problem among EU citizens and globally.

However, the SUP Directive was adopted quickly, owing to the end of the EU Institutional mandate, which has led to a lack of policy coherence, especially the Package Waste Directive. Owing to this lack of coherence and differing targets between the two Directives, the Commission has acknowledged that there must be a revision of the 2018 Package Waste Directive. However, this will not be a mere tinkering exercise, this will be a fundamental review of the directive.

SUP Directive revising 2018 EU Package Waste Directive

The European Commission has started gathering views from EU member states, the packaging industry and online retailers ahead of a comprehensive review of EU rules on packaging waste, part of efforts to boost reuse and recycling rates by 2030.

Recital 18 of the SUP Directive provides that ‘Plastic products should be manufactured taking into account their entire life span’, including the products use phase, reusability and recyclability.

Referring to Article 9(5) of the Packaging and Waste Directive 1994, the SUP Directive makes clear that the review provided for should take into account composite materials and life-cycle assessments when addressing waste prevention. Therefore, the SUP Directive directs the Commission to consider an evaluation of plastic packaging pursuant to Article 9(5) of Directive 94/62/EC.

Additionally, the revised Packaging and Waste Directive, adopted early 2018, includes targets for packaging recyclability and reusability. However, as the Commission has committed to make all plastic reusable and recyclable by 2030 as part of its Plastics Strategy, there will be further revision of the recently revised Packaging and Waste Directive in the near future.

The evaluation of the rules concerning plastic packaging will be substantial, with the goal of making packaging more reusable and recyclable. While a roadmap is yet to be published, it is likely that the Commission will put forward a proposal on or before Q3 2020, before the close of the calendar year.

Analysis – further expansion of SUP on the cards?

The SUP Directive has been purposefully designed to be flexible and organic. The Parliament and Council have given the Commission great scope to go ahead and evaluate the SUP Directive over the coming two years and will be required to assess the future expansion of the products included in the SUP Directive. Critically, this means that the EU Commission will likely add more products to the SUP Directives’ restriction list – including bottle caps and lids as well as other packaging material. This is evidenced by Recital 32 and 12 of the SUP Directive. The EU Commission will begin work immediately on analysing the scope of the SUP Directive and the newly-elected ENVI Committee in the EU Parliament will also use its voice to demand action on a whole host of plastics.

Next Steps

The EU Commission will be publishing their new Work Programme shortly. Plastic and recycling will to play an important part of this fresh mandate, particularly given the forthcoming New Green Deal, set to be announced by the European Commission.

You can download a summary PDF on the Packaging and Waste Directive.

If you want to discuss this further please contact Chris Morris by email.


September 3rd, 2019 by Christopher Morris