European Parliament approves new packaging regulation

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a comprehensive new packaging regulation aimed at reducing packaging waste, harmonising internal market rules, and boosting the EU’s circular economy. The legislation, provisionally agreed with the Council, sets ambitious packaging reduction targets of 5% by 2030, 10% by 2035, and 15% by 2040. A key focus is on cutting down plastic packaging waste.

The regulation was passed with a majority of 476 votes in favour, 129 against, and 24 abstentions. The Council’s formal approval is required before the regulation can take effect.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet & Plastic Health Council, commented to Packaging Insights, “This round of regulation could be viewed as a step forward by some considering the complete stasis in policy that is seen in many nations.”

Key Provisions of the Regulation
Cross-material packaging reductions

The new rules set a maximum empty space ratio of 50% for grouped, transport, and e-commerce packaging, aimed at reducing unnecessary material use. Manufacturers and importers will be required to ensure that packaging weight and volume are minimised.

Rapporteur Frédérique Ries (Renew Europe Group, Belgium) highlighted the groundbreaking nature of the legislation, “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 micro-enterprises.”

Ries also pointed out the health benefits, stating, “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.”

Bans and targets
From 2030, certain single-use plastic packaging types will be banned, including packaging for unprocessed fresh fruit and vegetables, food and beverages consumed in cafés and restaurants, individual portions such as condiments and sauces, miniature toiletries in accommodation, and very lightweight plastic carrier bags (below 15 microns). To prevent adverse health effects, the regulation includes a ban on using “forever chemicals” (PFASs) above certain thresholds in food contact packaging.

Reuse and recycling goals
Specific reuse targets by 2030 are set for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage packaging (excluding milk, wine, aromatised wine, and spirits), transport and sales packaging, and grouped packaging. Member states can grant a five-year derogation from these requirements under certain conditions.

Final distributors of beverages and take-away food must offer consumers the option to bring their own containers and aim to provide 10% of products in reusable packaging formats by 2030.

Sutherland acknowledged the progress made but stressed the need for further action, “The inclusion of reuse targets and measures covering the full life cycle of packaging are welcome. However, it is limited and coupled with a tired and disingenuous focus on recycling over reduction.”

Enhanced collection and recycling
The new regulation mandates that by 2029, 90% of single-use plastic and metal beverage containers (up to three litres) must be collected separately through deposit-return systems or other solutions ensuring the collection target is met. All packaging, except lightweight wood, cork, textile, rubber, ceramic, porcelain, and wax, must be recyclable by meeting strict criteria.

The legislation also sets minimum recycled content targets for plastic packaging and minimum recycling targets by weight of packaging waste.

Sutherland called for more decisive action, “Policymakers must take this prescient moment to reduce human health impact; mandate legislation that vastly reduces the production of plastic, ensure all future materials use safe chemistry, and ultimately penalise the biggest polluters. We will only see change when there is real risk to those who continue to pollute our planet and bodies. We must go further and faster.”

With the European Parliament’s approval, the regulation now awaits the Council’s formal nod to become a cornerstone of the EU’s strategy to combat packaging waste and enhance sustainability.


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Hannah Larvin
Editor, International Confectionery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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