The circular economy within the European Union has recently been the subject of heated debate, mainly due to the new rules on packaging adopted by the EU Council on 18 December. The compromises reached elicited a variety of reactions from the various industrial sectors and environmental NGOs. This article takes a closer look at the divergent positions of the key players and explores the issues raised by these new rules, which aim to reshape the packaging landscape in Europe.

Industry criticism

Europe’s industrial lobbies were quick to express their dissatisfaction with the Member States’ compromise on the packaging regulation. Convergent criticisms, albeit motivated by a variety of arguments, are emerging in particular around the targets for re-use and the ban on certain single-use packaging. The food packaging sector, represented by Eppa, and Unesda for drinks, believe that these compromises will undermine existing recycling systems, underlining concerns about the feasibility and effectiveness of the new directives.

Disappointment for the Brewers

Brewers of Europe, which represents brewers within the EU, has suffered a major disappointment with the loss of its battle. They aspire to the uniform application of re-use obligations to all drinks sectors. However, wine and spirits have been exempted, generating concerns within the brewing lobby about the fairness of the rules governing the different categories of drinks.

Regrets from the permanent materials lobbies

The lobbies representing so-called permanent materials, such as glass, metal, steel and aluminium, have expressed their regret at the limited scope of the separate collection target. They deplore the fact that this target, set at 90% by 2029, only applies to plastic bottles and metal cans, thus missing the opportunity to promote infinitely recyclable packaging. Lobbyists are also raising concerns about the weight-based waste reduction target, which could inadvertently favour less circular materials such as plastic.