20/03/2024 | Packaging

EU packaging regulation: unrealistic requirements are a burden on the mechanical engineering industry says the VDMA

The mechanical and plant engineering industry sees the EU packaging regulation recently adopted by the member states as fundamentally positive. However, the industry continues to be burdened by technical weaknesses and, in some cases, unrealistic requirements. On 15 March 2024, the Member States adopted the EU Packaging Regulation. The aim of the regulation is to minimise the negative impact of packaging on the environment. To achieve this, packaging waste is to be reduced and a circular economy promoted. The regulations take into account the entire life cycle of packaging. "The EU Packaging Regulation creates a certain degree of planning certainty for the mechanical engineering industry and its customers. However, technical weaknesses and unrealistic requirements in the regulations are a burden on the industry," says Richard Clemens, Managing Director of the VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Association. Significantly higher reusable rates for industrial packaging In contrast to the draft originally proposed by the Commission, the regulation that has now been adopted provides for a significant increase in the reusable quotas for industrial packaging, including pallet wrapping and strapping bands for securing loads on pallets. "A reusable quota of 100 percent for industrial transport packaging for deliveries between company locations and transports within a member state has no basis and there is no proof of its ecological benefits. Reuse is not even technically feasible. This requirement is therefore practically tantamount to a ban, which contradicts all requirements for load securing," explains Clemens. The regulation also bans portion packaging in the HORECA sector. This can affect consumer health – and not just in times of pandemics – as maintaining hygiene is problematic. It can also lead to food spoilage and thus to increased food losses. "This takes the idea of sustainability ad absurdum," says the VDMA Managing Director, "considering that the majority of CO2 emissions are generated during the production of food and not during the packaging, which is intended to protect the food from spoilage." Bans on certain packaging and materials have an impact on all links in the value chain. This has far-reaching consequences for the packaging machinery industry, which is an important enabler of sustainable packaging solutions. "The industry must now expect a drop in sales, which means that business models that have been established for decades are on the brink of collapse and many jobs are at risk," warns Clemens. With its objections, the VDMA has helped to ensure that some exceptions to the bans have now been made compared to the originally proposed draft. One positive aspect for the industry is that customised transport packaging for machinery and equipment has been exempted from the reusable packaging quotas, something that the VDMA also campaigned for.