Today the European Commission released a pared back set of Circular Economy initiatives as a second edition to the package released in March this year.
Initially promised to also include the Green Claims Initiative and a consumer initiative on the right to repair, the Commission has now served up a dwindling publication consisting of only the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation and a policy framework on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics.
A number of leaks in the build up to the proposals saw heavy lobbying from industry resulting in environmental ambition and targets being watered down.
Packaging law keeps eyes on reuse
For a sector hungry for natural resources and producing record levels of waste, the proposal for a new Packaging Regulation represents an important shift towards waste prevention, reuse and recycling.
New targets are proposed for reuse in a number of sectors including beverages, take-away food and transport. This is supported by an overall waste prevention target of 5% by 2030 and 10% by 2035.
“Today’s proposals to support packaging waste prevention, reuse and closed-loop recycling are urgently needed given the historic levels of waste Europe faces. Parliament and Council must focus on improving the proposals so that genuine reuse and recycling can be scaled up, avoiding fake solutions.”
Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Deputy Manager Circular Economy.
To support the European objective of making all packaging recyclable by 2030, design for recycling requirements are introduced to remove difficult to recycle packaging from the market.
Measures lost ambition compared to a previous draft widely circulated. Reuse targets were reduced by as much as 50%, a ban on expanded polystyrene has been dropped, and technical details on the approach to define recyclability were scaled back.
The missing puzzle piece: green claims
Over half of European citizens are interested in making sustainable choices, which has led to a flood of green claims on more than three quarters of products in the EU. However, according to authorities, 42% of online claims are potentially misleading and 59% without easily accessible evidence.
Despite the growing prevalence of greenwashing, the initiative on green claims saw itself booted out of the Circular Economy package for a second time. This means yet another delay to establishing clear requirements for environmental claims and labels, which should be based on robust standards and holistic assessment methods, including on the substitution of hazardous chemical substitution and biodiversity protection.
"The EU needs to urgently regulate the jungle of green claims and labels. Greenwashing does not only sow confusion and distrust among consumers, it also undermines the efforts of businesses that provide genuinely green products and services. A further delay of this initiative is bad news, as it slows down progress of the Circular Economy Action Plan to empower consumers and public buyers for the green transition.”
Blanca Morales, Senior Policy Officer for EU Ecolabel
Further delays to right to repair
Despite soaring living costs and years of citizen calls for repairable electronics, the proposal for right to repair was once more delayed and left out of this Circular Economy package. By delaying the legislation, the Commission is leaving consumers unprotected when it comes to affordable and accessible repairs, wasting precious resources in a growing mountain of hazardous e-waste.
“Further delays to granting Europe a right to repair is highly disappointing. With people and the environment paying an ever-growing bill for made-to-fail electronics, the power should be with citizens to use their products for as long as possible and repair them when needed.”
Orla Butler, Associate Policy Officer for Circular Economy