EPBA support joint industry paper for an EU approach on labelling of packaging

Joint industry call for an EU approach to packaging waste labelling – 24 June 2021

The undersigned organisations call on the Commission to take urgent action to ensure a common approach for packaging waste-sorting labelling to preserve the free movement of goods within the EU and underpin sustainability measures.

As representatives of the packaging industry and consumer product manufacturers, we fully endorse the need for improved waste collection and sorting to support the transition towards a circular economy. Providing relevant and consistent information to consumers on how to properly dispose of both the products and their packaging is essential to enhance collection rates and improve the quality of the material collected.

However, in the course of the last year we have been confronted with a concerning trend of divergent national packaging labelling and information requirements. This is not only counter to the work underway at EU level of moving towards greater harmonisation of waste collection and sorting, but it is inevitably resulting in major Single Market disruptions and, in turns, undermining Europe’s sustainability goals.

These national labelling and information requirements force companies to create several iterations of their packaging to comply with them or to use stickers to add or cover certain markings. In addition to costs and operational impacts on production lines, these national measures can also have a negative impact on the size of packaging and its recyclability and can further confuse consumers.

These concerns have recently been raised by Members of the European Parliament, who have questioned the European Commission about a harmonised approach to labelling across the EU.

The current review of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC) represents a great opportunity to set common requirements on which information should be provided to consumers and how this should be done, including the use of digital solutions that can help provide required information without the need to increase packaging size or repackage. In parallel, the work initiated by the Commission to harmonise separate waste collection and sorting, as required by the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC), will be key to the effectiveness of harmonised labelling requirements.

These developments, however, will take time to see the light and produce concrete outcomes. In the meantime, therefore, concrete and urgent action is needed to halt the proliferation of unilateral and divergent national measures. The Commission, as the guardian of the Treaty, must ensure full compliance with the free movement of goods’ principles and take decisive action to prevent or address disproportionate or unjustified measures on unilateral packaging labelling, which undermine the integrity of the Single Market for packaging and packaged goods and the transition towards more sustainable packaging solutions. This also implies ensuring a timely and constructive cooperation on the part of Member States in resolving any Single Market incompatibilities raised by their national measures, failing which the Commission should make full use of the powers attributed to it by the Treaty to ensure the respect of its decisions.

We would welcome the possibility for a delegation of the undersigned organisations to meet with you and discuss in more detail the concrete impacts that these national measures are having on so many economic and industrial sectors and on European consumers.

The full joint statement is available here