The European Parliament adopted a landmark regulation on 24 April 2024, designed to make packaging across the EU more sustainable and to significantly reduce packaging waste.  

The regulation, which received 476 votes in favour, 129 against, and 24 abstentions, established ambitious targets for packaging reduction, including a 5% reduction by 2030, 10% by 2035, and 15% by 2040. 

Provisionally agreed upon with the European Council, the regulation mandates EU countries to specifically curb the amount of plastic packaging waste and sets a maximum empty space ratio of 50% for grouped, transport, and e-commerce packaging. 

Starting from 1 January 2030, the EU will ban certain single-use plastic packaging such as those for unprocessed fresh fruit and vegetables, and for foods and beverages consumed in cafés and restaurants.  

In addition, the regulation prohibits the use of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances above certain thresholds in food-contact packaging to safeguard health. 

The regulation stipulates that all packaging, except for certain materials such as lightweight wood and cork, must be recyclable by meeting strict criteria.  

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It also sets minimum recycled content targets for plastic packaging and minimum recycling targets by weight for packaging waste. 

By 2029, a separate collection target of 90% is set for single-use plastic and metal beverage containers up to three litres.  

Specific reuse targets for beverage packaging will be introduced in 2030, with certain exemptions and the possibility for member states to grant a five-year derogation under certain conditions. 

Furthermore, final distributors of beverages and takeaway food will be required to offer consumers the option of using their own containers and aim to offer 10% of products in reusable packaging formats by 2030. 

European Parliament rapporteur Frédérique Ries said: “For the first time in an environmental law, the EU is setting targets to reduce packaging, regardless of the material used. The new rules foster innovation and include exemptions for microenterprises.  

“The ban on forever chemicals in food packaging is a great victory for the health of European consumers. We now call on all industrial sectors, EU countries and consumers to play their part in the fight against excess packaging.” 

The regulation is subject to formal approval from the council prior to implementation.