Beyond Plastic: Unpacking the EU's Pioneering Reuse Targets and PFAS Ban

By Abi O'Callaghan-Platt

On Monday 4th of March the European Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement on the much-negotiated Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation and VOICE are delighted to see many of the points we were pushing for, through our discussions with Irish representatives in the EU over the past two years, make it into this agreement.  

One highlight of the regulation is the ban on certain plastics from 2030. This is a massive achievement and will see the removal of plastic packaging from fruits and vegetables, which will make a big difference to the amount of plastic waste people are bringing home from the supermarket.

Our National Recycling Bin Survey found that 40% of waste items in our household recycling bins are plastic sourced directly from supermarkets. With 98% of the participants in the survey expressing frustration at the quantity of waste entering their homes this ban will come as good news to householders!  

Another important plastic ban is on the use of disposable takeaway cups and containers for drinks and food consumed in cafes and restaurants. Additionally, plastic single-use sachets, such as those commonly used for ketchup and mayonnaise and hotel toiletry miniatures will be removed from the market.  

These bans will support the aims of Ireland's National Waste Action Plan for the Circular Economy and we are glad to see such strong ambition supported on an EU level. These are all great steps towards removing unnecessary single-use disposable plastic however it may simply prompt a move from single-use plastic to single-use disposable paper-based packaging, rather than a real move towards a circular economy.  

One section within the agreement that supports the circular economy is the incorporation of reuse targets. Including these targets was hard won, with huge industry pressure to have them deleted from the final text. These reuse targets, set for several sectors for 2030, will provide the certainty needed to allow for real investment in reuse infrastructure. And while we would support more ambitious targets, we welcome including them as a step towards circularity.  

Another success is the ban on the forever chemical PFAS in food contact packaging, which will be effective within 18 months. This is a big win for both the environment and for human health! You can read more about PFAS chemicals in our report HERE.

On balance, while the incorporation of a number of loopholes, derogations, and the exclusion of paper-based packaging from the regulation are disappointing this is a huge step forward in terms of reducing single-use plastic and a small step towards a circular economy.