EU closing the loop on packaging from 2025

New pastic packaging will be subject to mandatory levels of recycled content from 2025
New pastic packaging will be subject to mandatory levels of recycled content from 2025

The European Commission has unveiled new packaging regulations that will take effect from 2025, and require all packaging used in the bloc to be recyclable by 2030.

The requirements, which replace the bloc’s 1994 Packaging and Packaging Waste regulation, will also introduce a single recycling labelling system for the whole of the EU, recycled content targets for plastic packaging, and require that fresh produce labels be biodegradable.

Under the new system, all packaging will undergo assessment to ensure they have been designed to be recycled, with grades from A to E. 

Packaging scoring E will be banned from the common market from 2030, and grades A to D will be subject to extended producer responsibility (EPR) fees, introducing a financial incentive to manufacture easily recyclable packaging.

Manufacturers exporting to Europe will have to comply with the requirements.

UK firms with sales of more than £1m that produce packaging or package goods were required to start collecting packaging data from 1 January 2023. 

These companies will be required to pay an annual fee to the UK’s environmental regulator from 2024, or sooner for companies that turn over more than £2m or produce more than 50 tonnes of packaging or packaged goods.

Beatrice Klose, secretary general of Intergraf, said of the new EU standards: “This far-reaching regulation is a major step forward in the EU’s efforts to create a more sustainable packaging industry in Europe.

“It will have a significant impact on the printing and packaging industry, which will need to find new and innovative ways to reduce waste and increase recycling.”

The new regulation will likewise introduce a new pictographic recycling label system that will help consumers to correctly recycle the packaging. Reusable packaging will also have to be labelled with a QR code, and deposit return schemes will be mandatory for plastic bottles and metal cans.

Manufacturers will also have to abide by mandatory inclusion rates for recycled plastic when producing new plastic packaging.

The regulation is expected to nullify the EU’s forecasted 19% increase in packaging waste by 2030, and pave the ground for further reforms. Plastic packaging alone was expected to increase 46% in that time.

The European Commission said it expected the packaging sector to reach climate neutrality by 2050.