Fast Food Packaging

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PPWR EU Policy on Packaging Waste

8th March 2024

Fast food packaging waste

In a significant move toward reducing packaging waste across the EU, lawmakers have this week reached a pivotal agreement that reshapes the landscape of fast-food packaging. While a complete ban on disposable wrappers and cartons wasn't embraced, an array of familiar litter is set to be phased out, marking a crucial step forward in the fight to reduce waste.

Under the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), recently agreed upon infollowing intensive negotiations between MEPs and government representatives, fast-food establishments will no longer serve food and beverages in-house with throwaway plastic wrappers and cups. However, the final agreement permits the use of paper and other materials, deviating from the European Commission's initial proposal for an outright ban.

The PPWR sets concrete targets for reducing packaging waste, aiming for a 5% cut by 2030, followed by 10% in 2035 and 15% in 2040. To achieve these targets, the legislation addresses excessive packaging practices, including limiting empty space in transport boxes and imposing regulations on the take-away food sector.

From 2030 onwards, sandwich bars, kebab shops, and pizzerias must offer reusable packaging for at least 10% of their products and allow customers to bring their containers without penalties. Moreover, lightweight plastic bags, commonly used in fruit and vegetable markets, will be phased out.

The hospitality sector faces additional restrictions, with plastic sachets and mini milk capsules also to become relics of the past by 2030. Travelers will also notice changes, as mini bottles of shampoo in hotels and shrink-wrapping suitcases at airports will also be phased out.

Governments must ensure the separate collection of at least 90% of plastic bottles and metal containers by 2029 and implement mandatory deposit-return systems (DRS). However, exemptions exist for countries meeting specific collection targets.

The PPWR, subject to intense lobbying since its proposal, reflects a compromise among various industrial sectors. While some see it as a victory for promoting circularity and phasing out fossil-based materials, environmental groups criticise the exemptions and loopholes introduced to water down the legislation during negotiations.

Although there is praise for banning PFAS chemicals in food packaging, concerns remain regarding the influence of paper industry lobbyists and the adequacy of requirements for reusable packaging.

Despite differing viewpoints, the agreement represents an important step toward addressing packaging waste. By embracing recyclability and recycled content targets, the EU aims to strike a balance between environmental protection and industrial interests.

Brokered under the Belgium EU Council presidency, the new packaging waste law is poised for formal adoption, signaling a significant milestone in EU policy on sustainability and waste reduction.