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New packaging rules put supply chains at risk

Latest News 12 Mar 2024

Last week, EU negotiators struck a deal on EU sustainable packaging rules aimed at tackling growing amounts of waste produced across the bloc.

New rules will push businesses to cut down on single-use packaging and make sure all packaging is recyclable by 2030. However, the current deal “does not adequately address the complexities and nuances of the industry and results in an extreme simplification of the real underlying complexity regarding the decision-making process on environmental impact assessment,” commented Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General.

Of particular relevance to the sector is Article 26.1 of the Commission proposal which lays down reuse targets for packaging used in the transport of products including “large household appliances” such as refrigerators, washing machines, tumble dryers, electric fans or air conditioners. Worryingly enough, “there is a notable absence of clarity regarding derogations and the scope of this article,” explained Falcioni, raising concerns about potential loopholes or oversights this could generate across the production chain.

Another critical element of concern is the “lack of scientific evidence” supporting the assertion that reusable solutions inherently offer environmental benefits over single-use alternatives. Differently from other product categories, the proposed targets for home appliances have not been assessed, with a risk that a less sustainable solution will be implemented and the integrity of the product at delivery, compromised. On average, a washing machine ranges between 60 to 90 kg. During transport from the factory to the consumer home, the packaging is exposed to a number of different climatic and mechanical shocks that, if not properly absorbed, could damage the appliance along the way. For this reason, the packaging is designed to match the specific characteristics of each appliance model available on the market. Experts in the factory test the packaging to replicate real-life conditions and select the type and amount of materials needed to secure the product, based on the results of these tests. 

To avoid the use of misleading studies in the decision-making process which may shift the debate towards undesirable choices, a life cycle assessment should be conducted that is based on robust and verifiable scientific evidence, industry-independent, peer-reviewed and publicly available. 

Negotiators are still in technical talks to iron out the details of the agreement and come up with a final text to be submitted for endorsement by the Council and the Parliament. A vote is foreseen for this Friday among deputy EU ambassadors. 

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