Following the European Parliament’s vote on new packaging waste management regulations, it now falls to the Council of Europe to push the proposal forward before it is enshrined in law

Leading players in Europe’s fresh produce packaging business have welcomed the recent European Parliament vote on new EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations (PPWR) after some last-minute revisions – in particular to its approach to recycling.

“The Parliament has recognised that reuse and recycling of packaging are complementary and the robust recycling systems that have existed for decades are cornerstones of EU policies for environmental sustainability,” commented Saverio Mayer, CEO of Smurfit Kappa Europe, who earlier in the week suggested the vote could result in more waste, not less.

“We call on the Council of Environmental Ministers to follow the Parliament in acknowledging that both reuse and recycling systems go hand in hand in the interest of a greener Europe.”

A shift in favour of making greater provision for recycling of packaging, based on the kind of model already employed in Italy for example, seems to have appeased many fruit and veg packaging suppliers.

Italian packaging lobby group Pro Food described the outcome as an opportunity to build the right king of packaging waste system, and called it a victory for “common sense over ideology”.

In a statement it said: “This vote represented an opening of credit towards a model, the Italian one, made up of increasingly sustainable packaging production, increasingly careful uses – no overpackaging – and a system of collection, selection and recycling of packaging waste that already works, and is growing.”

However, Pro Food said there was still scope to make the new rules work better. “The legislative process of the Regulation is still long, its steps are sometimes complex, and the proposal that emerged from the plenary assembly of Parliament contains points that can still be improved,” it said.

“As ProFood we will continue to defend and promote our reasons and we remain at the disposal of the Italian Government, which will play a fundamental role.”

Other stakeholders were not so positive about the vote. Zero Waste Europe was highly critical of the PPWR proposal, describing it as “a position for the wrong century” and a “watered-down text that excluded crucial mechanisms” to achieve targets on waste.

The organisation’s Raphaëlle Catté commented: ”By favouring recycling over reuse, the new derogations in Articles 22 and 26 question the whole foundation of EU waste law, namely the waste hierarchy. Recycling will not stop the waste problem, even with robust systems. It is worrying that not only right and far-right parties, but MEPs from all backgrounds yielded to lobbyist arguments.”