EU Council agrees to give cardboard exemption from reuse targets under Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation

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The European Council has suggested that cardboard packaging should be exempt from proposed reuse targets.

In its negotiating position to set out its stall before agreement is reached with the European Parliament and European Commission, the Council said that cardboard packaging would be exempt from packaging reuse and refill targets for items such as large household appliances, take-away packages and transport packaging.

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Cardboard packaging will also have a lower minimum number of rotations before it is considered reusable compared to other packaging materials.

The Council agreed with the Commission on targets for packaging waste reduction based on 2018 quantities with the targets set at 5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040.

It also amended the proposal on recyclable packaging. While maintaining that all packaging placed on the market must be recyclable as proposed by the Commission, member states agreed that packaging will be considered recyclable when designed for material recycling, and when the waste packaging can be separately collected, sorted and recycled at scale (the latter condition will apply from 2035).

The general approach maintains the headline 2030 and 2040 targets for minimum recycled content in plastic packaging. By 2034, the Commission will have to review the implementation of the 2030 targets and assess the feasibility of the 2040 targets.

For Deposit Return Schemes (DRS), under the new rules, by 2029, member states must ensure the separate collection of at least 90% annually of single-use plastic bottles and metal beverage containers. To achieve this target, they are required to set up DRS for those packaging formats. The minimum requirements for DRS will not apply to systems already in place before the entry into force of the regulation, if the systems in question achieve the 90% target by 2029.

The Council added an exemption from the requirement to introduce a DRS for member states with a rate of separate collection above 78% reached in 2026.

Spanish third vice-president of the government and minister for the ecological transition and the demographic challenge Teresa Ribera Rodríguez said: “190kg of packaging waste was generated by each European in 2021. And this figure will grow by nearly 20% in 2030, if things stay the same. We cannot let that happen.

“Today’s general approach gives a strong message that the EU is committed to reducing and preventing packaging waste from all sources. This regulation is crucial in our path to a circular economy and a climate-neutral Europe.”