The global packaging industry waits with bated breath for the European Parliament’s deadline for a decision on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), scheduled for April 2024.

The PPWR is designed to reduce packaging pollution and help build a circular economy for packaging.

The revision of the original 1994 PPWR regulation has caused a furore across the packaging value chain. A coalition of organisations has issued a plea to EU legislators, stating that the legislation endangers packaging recycling.

The ramifications of the PPWR will affect both packaging companies based in Europe and non-European businesses looking to continue trading in the EU.

The World Packaging Organisation (WPO) hosted a webinar to provide clarifications for industry players as the PPWR deadline approaches.

WPO vice-president of sustainability and safe food Nerida Kelton stated that from the WPO’s perspective, the critical points of the PPWR should be ensuring it is economical, can facilitate efficient recycling, has consistent design standards and uses science-backed life cycle assessments.

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The stages of recyclability within the PPWR require that from 2030 onwards packaging must meet design criteria for recycling (which are still yet to be defined) and that from 2035 onwards, packaging must be effectively collected, sorted and recovered – also known as being “recycled at scale”.

Performance rates are issued for recyclability. If packaging scores under 70% it may no longer be placed in the European market after 2030.

Plastic packaging must contain a minimum post-consumer recycled content starting from 2030, but the exact amount and verification process have yet to be worked out.

Packaging must also be conceived, designed and placed on the market in such a way that it can be re-used or refilled. This is part of the EU’s plan to establish a re-use system for cold and hot beverages and takeaway meals.

Packaging weight and volume must be as low as possible, with a space ratio of 40% per packaging unit.

Managing director of consultancy Circular Analytics Manfred Tacker gave an example, stating that: “If you were to substitute a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle with a glass bottle you wouldn’t hit the goals of the PPWR because of the weight.”

Companies will be required to provide technical documentation of packaging types, designs, assessments, and test results.

The WPO expects that EU member states will define penalties under their national laws for missing the required targets.