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The latest progress of the European Green New Deal directly refers to plastic packaging waste

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The latest progress of the European Green New Deal directly refers to plastic packaging waste

On November 30, 2022, the European Commission proposed a new packaging rule in the European Union, "Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations", to address the root cause of this growing waste. On average, each European produces nearly 180 kilograms of packaging waste every year. Packaging is one of the main users of raw materials, because 40% of plastics and 50% of paper in the EU are used for packaging. If no action is taken, the packaging waste of the EU will further increase by 19% and the plastic packaging waste will even increase by 46% by 2030. The new rules aim to stop this trend. For consumers, they will ensure reusable packaging options, eliminate unnecessary packaging, limit excessive packaging, and provide clear labels to support proper recycling. For the packaging industry, they will create new business opportunities, especially for small companies, reduce the demand for raw materials, improve Europe's recycling capacity, and reduce Europe's dependence on major resources and external suppliers. By 2050, the European packaging industry will be on a climate neutral track.


The proposed revised EU packaging and packaging waste legislation has three main objectives: first, to prevent the generation of packaging waste: reduce the amount of packaging waste, limit unnecessary packaging, and promote reusable and refillable packaging solutions. Second, promote high-quality recycling ("closed loop"): by 2030, make all packages on the EU market recyclable in an economically feasible way. Finally, reduce the demand for primary natural resources, create a well functioning market for secondary raw materials (recycled materials), and increase the use of recycled plastics in packaging through the mandatory recycling ratio target. Specifically:


1. The overall goal is to reduce packaging waste per capita in each member country by 15% by 2040 compared with 2018. Without changing the legislation, the total waste of the EU will be reduced by about 37%. This will be achieved through reuse and recycling.


2. In order to promote the reuse or refilling of packaging which has dropped sharply in the past 20 years, the company must provide consumers with a certain proportion of reusable or refillable packaging products, such as takeout drinks and meals or e-commerce distribution. In addition, some standardization work will be carried out on packaging methods and clear identification of reusable packaging.


3. In order to solve the obvious unnecessary packaging problem, some forms of packaging will be prohibited, such as one-time packaging of food and drink consumed in restaurants and cafes, one-time packaging of fruits and vegetables, micro shampoo bottles and other micro packaging of hotels.


4. Many measures aim to make packaging fully recyclable by 2030. This includes the development of packaging design standards; Establish a mandatory deposit refund system for plastic bottles and aluminum cans; It also specifies which very limited packages must be compostable so that consumers can throw them into biological waste.


5. In addition, the manufacturer must include mandatory recycled components in the new plastic packaging. This will help to convert recycled plastics into valuable raw materials - as shown in the example of PET bottles in the Disposable Plastics Directive. The specific provisions are as follows:


1) As of January 1, 2030, the plastic parts in the packaging shall contain the following minimum percentage of recycled components recovered from post consumer plastic waste per unit of packaging:


a) 30% for contact sensitive packaging with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as the main component;


b) 10%, used for contact sensitive packaging made of plastic materials other than PET, except disposable plastic beverage bottles;


c) 30% for disposable plastic beverage bottles;


d) 35% for packages other than the above three.


2) As of January 1, 2040, the plastic parts in the package shall contain the following minimum percentage of recycled components recovered from post consumer plastic waste per unit of package:


a) 50%, for contact sensitive packaging, except disposable plastic beverage bottles;


b) 65% for disposable plastic beverage bottles;


c) 65% for packages other than the above two.


This proposal will eliminate confusion about which packaging belongs to which recycling bin. Each package will have a label indicating what the package is made of and in which waste stream it should be placed. The waste collection containers will bear the same label. The same symbol will be used throughout the EU.


By 2030, the above-mentioned measures will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by packaging to 43 million tons, and if the legislation is not changed, it will be 66 million tons - the reduction is approximately equivalent to the annual emissions of Croatia. Water use will be reduced by 1.1 million cubic meters. Compared with the benchmark 2030, the cost of economic and social environmental damage will be reduced by 6.4 billion euros.


The disposable packaging industry will have to be transformed, but the overall economy and employment creation of the EU will have a positive impact. It is estimated that by 2030, the promotion of reuse alone will bring more than 600000 jobs to the industry, many of which are small and medium-sized companies in the local area. We expect more innovation in packaging solutions to facilitate source reduction, reuse and recycling. These measures are also expected to save money: if enterprises transfer the saved funds to consumers, each European can save nearly 100 euros per year.


The use and production of bio based, biodegradable and compostable plastics have been growing steadily. In order for these plastics to have a positive environmental impact, rather than exacerbating plastic pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss, several conditions must be met. To this end, the European Commission has put forward the EU Policy Framework on Biobased Plastics, Biodegradable Plastics and Compostable Plastics, which provides consumers and industries with clear information on bio based, compostable and biodegradable plastics, and stipulates in which applications such plastics are truly beneficial to the environment, as well as how to design, treat and recycle them.


1. Biomass used to produce bio based plastics must be a sustainable source that will not cause damage to the environment and follow the principle of "cascade use of biomass": producers should give priority to the use of organic wastes and by-products as raw materials. In addition, in order to combat enterprises' "green washing" and avoid misleading consumers, manufacturers need to avoid general statements on plastic products, such as "bioplastics" and "bio based". When communicating about the content of bio based plastics, the manufacturer should refer to the exact and measurable share of bio based plastics in the product (for example, "the product contains 50% bio based plastics").


2. Biodegradable plastics must be treated with caution. They have a place in the future of sustainable development, but they need to be targeted at specific applications, in which their environmental benefits and value to the circular economy have been proved. The permit for littering shall never be provided for biodegradable plastics. In addition, they must be labeled to show how long it takes them to biodegrade, under what conditions, and in what environments. Plastic products that may be discarded, including those covered by the Disposable Plastics Directive, cannot be claimed or labeled biodegradable.


3. Industrial compostable plastics can only be used when they have environmental benefits, will not have a negative impact on the quality of compost, and have an appropriate biological waste collection and treatment system. Industrial compostable packaging is only allowed for tea bags, filter coffee pods and mats, fruit and vegetable stickers, and very light plastic bags. The product must always state that it has been certified for industrial composting in accordance with EU standards.


The author believes that the above two proposals are the key components of the New Circular Economy Action Plan of the European Green New Deal, which aims to make sustainable products the norm, and also respond to the specific requirements expressed by the European community at the European Conference in the future. The proposal on packaging and packaging waste will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council in the ordinary legislative process. The policy framework for bio based, biodegradable and compostable plastics will guide the EU's future work on this issue, such as ecological design requirements for sustainable products, funding schemes and international discussions. The Commission encourages citizens, the public sector and enterprises to use this framework in their policy, investment or procurement decisions.


These measures also bring opportunities and challenges to China's plastic and packaging industry chain:


1. For Chinese enterprises with products in Europe, whether through direct investment or trade, they need to upgrade their compliance requirements for packaging and material selection to make them conform to the above new proposals.


2. For Chinese brand enterprises operating in Europe, they need to start from the source design and change the packaging design to make it easy to recycle and reuse.


3. For Chinese material suppliers, it is necessary to accelerate the research and development of green low-carbon materials, and explore more global markets under the background of sustainable development.


4. For China's recyclers, we need to seize the opportunity to replicate China's mature and successful recycling experience to Europe, so as to promote a closed-loop resource recycling model between China and Europe.


5. All Chinese supply chain enterprises serving European brand enterprises should do a good job in upgrading sustainable development, including establishing a life-cycle environmental impact assessment (especially carbon footprint), improving energy efficiency and water efficiency management system, improving the whole process traceability system of material flow, and managing ESG information disclosure.


The author also believes that with the further implementation of the European Green New Deal and China's gradual progress towards the dual carbon goal, China EU dialogue on green and low-carbon circular development will also be strengthened, promoting exchanges between the two sides in industry, education and research, and increasing green investment and trade between China and Europe.

Pub Time : 2022-12-05 08:56:19 >> News list
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