New EU waste rules adopted

On 18 April, the European Parliament approved the package to update the EU waste legislation, including a revision of the Waste Framework Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. Apart from new ambitious recycling and landfilling targets to boost the re-use of valuable materials in waste, the new legislation also acknowledges that bio-based feedstock for plastic packaging as well as compostable plastics for separate bio-waste collection contribute to more efficient waste management.

The revised Waste Framework Directive allows biodegradable and compostable packaging to be collected together with the bio-waste and recycled in industrial composting and anaerobic digestion, which has already successfully been implemented in several Member States. By 2023, separate collection of bio-waste is set to be mandatory throughout Europe. Biodegradable plastics verifiably help to collect more bio-waste and ultimately contribute to reaching the new recycling targets. Relevant European standards, such as the harmonized standard EN 13432 for industrially compostable plastic packaging can serve as basis for future standards for composting outlined in the agreed revision.

The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive acknowledges that bio-based plastics help to minimise the environmental impacts of plastic packaging and to reduce Europe’s dependence on imported raw materials. Bio-based and recycled materials are equally viable solutions to make packaging more sustainable. While Member States are encouraged to promote the use of bio-based recyclable packaging and bio-based compostable packaging, the European legislators miss the chance to introduce concrete legislative measures stimulating their use and improving market conditions for such products.

The waste package is a key element of the Circular Economy Action Plan the European Commission adopted in December 2015. After the European Council and Parliament reached provisional agreements earlier this year and the vote by the Plenary of the European Parliament, the package will now be submitted to the Council for final adoption. It will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal.