EU plastic and packaging reforms: EESC concerns about the impact on the environment, consumers and industrial competitiveness

The European Economic and Social committee held a public hearing on the European Packaging sector on 9 December 2022. The hearing was organised in cooperation with the Czech Chamber of Commerce and under the auspices of the Czech Presidency of the Council 2022. The aim was to bring together several stakeholders, trade unions, policy makers, employers and consumers to debate the key issues on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive proposed by the European Commission on 30 November 2022. The review contributes to reaching the objectives of the European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action plan.

By 2030, all packaging should be re-used or recycled, according to the new Circular Economy Action Plan. In order to achieve this objective, all packaging materials should be valued in the pursuit of the circular economy goal, with an emphasis on eco-design, current and future recycling technologies, and strong measures to combat dispersion.

There are still a lot of question marks over how to bring the ambitious proposals of the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive into reality, said the moderator of the debate Alena Mastantuono, EESC Member representing the Czech Chamber of Commerce. The new packaging rules aim for Europe-wide harmonisation and will have implications for industry, consumers and the environment, she added.

Every single good sold in Europe is packaged several times before it reaches the consumer, said Tomáš Prouza, sherpa of the Czech Minister for Trade and Industry, and Vice-President of the Czech Chamber of Commerce. “If we take a smart approach to the waste packaging, all will be the winners - the environment, consumers and industry.However, he questioned the approach taken by the Commission. The measures should not be across-the-board but they need to reflect the specificities of Members States and of individual sectors he added.  

Packaging plays a critical role in economic, environmental and social sustainability, but looking at packaging alone might have a negative impact on the regulatory system. In reality, the packaging used to preserve something usually represents significantly fewer resources and has a far lower intrinsic value than the product it is protecting. For example, in the food business, 30 percent of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain: as a result, product loss due to poor packing is likely to have far more negative environmental consequences. Improved packaging might be one approach to minimise the rate of food loss.

EU legislation should focus on the entire life-cycle of products, to promote the circular economy. Production, consumption and waste-treatment in the packaging industry are key in advancing towards a sustainable future, said Matteo Carlo Borsani, EESC rapporteur for the opinion on ''Making packaging a safe, affordable and eco-friendly industry". We have to take into account not only environmental but also economic and social sustainability, building on the significant progresses already made by some Member States in the circular economy field. Preserving the competitiveness of the European industry must be ensured by proposing measures on the basis of serious scientific analysis and an economic and social impact assessment, Borsani added.

The detailed parameters of calculating the reuse of packaging for certain companies will be published in the coming years via delegated acts. This creates more unpredictability and uncertainty for businesses who need to know the exact numbers today in order to make right investments. New rules represent new costs for manufacturers. According to the soft drinks association UNESDA a mandatory introduction of reusable packaging would require for this sector additional 15 to 22 billion euros by 2030. The new rules are the biggest challenge for the small and medium-sized businesses. 


The packaging sector is pivotal to the resilience of the EU economy, as a strategic autonomy asset and as a key element to guarantee the security of supply of products. For this reason, it is essential to raise awareness about the central role that packaging plays in the EU economy. As first the pandemic and then the conflict in Ukraine have shown, the packaging value chain is exposed to price fluctuations, energy shortages and unavailability of raw materials.  A lack of packaging availability could have unprecedented and dangerous consequences for the internal market by threatening the security of essential systems – such as the food, health and pharmaceutical sectors – and disrupting the distribution and availability of products throughout the EU.

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