The European packaging industry has expressed its concerns over possible legal complications of a European Commission's directive aimed at reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment – the Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUP).
The European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) and 67 other European and national associations representing the packaging value chain issued a joint statement 22 Aug, expressing their reservation about what they called the “unprecedented pace at which the proposal has been developed and intends to be adopted”.
Arguing that the directive did not reflect the principals of ‘better regulation”, the joint statement put forward a number of recommendations to the EC to avoid “differing legal interpretations at EU and national level”.
To that end, the statement asked the Commission to provide legal certainty and avoid the fragmentation of packaging policy.
“The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) is the main piece of legislation governing packaging and packaging waste in Europe. By including some packaging items within its scope, the proposal on Single Use Plastics (SUP) introduces legal uncertainty for member states and adds compliance complexity for businesses,” the statement warned.
The PPWD has Article 114 TFEU on ‘internal market' as its legal base to protect the free circulation of packaged goods in the EU. The SUP, however, has Article 192 TFEU on environmental protection as its legal base.
This, said the signatories, is an “overriding lex specialis” for the packaging items covered within the scope of the SUP proposal.
The signatories asked for the directive to have a “closed, well-defined product list” which cannot be interpreted differently by member states.
“Some aspects of the proposal challenge core policy principles of ‘better regulation', which is of concern for all materials and sectors in the packaging value chain,” said Hans van Bochove of Coca-Cola European Partners and EUROPEN Chairman.
“It is crucial that policies contain clear definitions and are based on a complete evidence-based impact assessment to maintain confidence in an informed law-making process and avoid possible unintended consequence,” added Van Bochove.
In May, the European Commission proposed new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. These, the EC said, constitute 70% of all marine litter items.
The rules include obligations for producers to cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for items including food containers, packets and wrappers wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags.
The directive also sets a collection target of 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025 within the member states.