The European Union’s ambitious plans to reduce packaging waste have been met with strong opposition among Italy’s plastic container suppliers

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The European Parliament building in Strasbourg

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New EU-wide rules on packaging threaten to have a detrimental economic and social impact without achieving their environmental objectives, according to a group of 14 Italian companies that produce plastic containers for food and drinks, including fruit and vegetables.

On Wednesday 22 November, MEPs will vote on a revised version of the European Commission’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Proposal (PPWR), which is designed to address increasing levels of packaging waste in the EU.

But wrangling over the new legislation has revealed a stark divide among nations and stakeholders. While some see recycling as the best solution to the packaging waste crisis, others have championed reuse strategies as the way forward.

In a statement issued on behalf of Pro Food, part of Federazione Gomma Plastica, the companies said that the environmental benefits of PPWR “remain doubtful” and would limit the future development of bioplastics in Italy.

They argued: “The proposal… presented by the European Commission mixes some positive guiding principles with an ideological criticism of popular consumption habits and lifestyles, and above all with an idea of sustainability that does not consider the impacts economic and social, which such legislation would have.”

Pro Food called the plans a threat to supply chains and national interests. It also suggested the proposals lacked “clear and irrefutable scientific evidence”, and ignored packaging’s “fundamental role… in containing food waste, which is today among the major causes of CO2 production.”

It also criticised an apparent emphasis on reuse, which it said was “to the detriment of recycling” and “often inapplicable and potentially risky for consumer safety”.

According to Pro Food, the plans might actually ban plastic packaging that is already recyclable, recycled, or contains more than 70 per cent recycled content. “[This is] therefore above the 50 per cent threshold that the same regulation sets as the objective for 2040.”

A proposed ban on fruit and vegetable packaging for products that weigh below 1.5kg threatened to damage the distribution and export of fruit and vegetables, it added.

The legislative path

After the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (Envi) approved the proposed regulations in October, the final legislative phase is due for completion on 22 November, when the European Parliament’s plenary assembly votes on the proposals.

“The [Envi] vote on 24 October highlighted a substantial split on the most criticised articles, 22 and 26, relating to packaging for fruit and vegetables and horeca,” said a spokesperson for Pro Food. “These passages were approved with a very small margin.”

In the meantime, the Council of the European Union has begun to examine PPWR. And for Pro Food members, a compromise text presented by the EU’s current Spanish presidency apparently makes some measures worse.

“Given this situation, we believe it is essential that Italian MEPs present and support amendments that go in the direction of a profound review of the entire provision,” the group stated.

“We also hope that the Italian government will keep to the point and express clear criticism of the Spanish presidency’s proposal.”