At the end of September, the Ministry for Ecological Transition, and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) opened the draft Royal Decree on packaging and packaging waste for public information. This text aims to transpose the last of the pending Directives of the 2018 European Circular Economy package, applying the precepts of the Single-Use Plastics Directive to packaging and revising the extended producer responsibility regime to packaging, as included in the Draft Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils that is being processed in Congress. This project is part of the actions included in the First Circular Economy Action Plan 2021-2023 and the reforms included in the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (PRTR) associated with the Circular Economy.

The main novelty of the new legislation is that it considers the entire life cycle of the product, from its manufacture until it is discarded by the consumer and reused for recycling and subsequent remarketing. These precepts are contained in Directive (EU) 2018/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018, which is the one that will be transposed with the new articles. Thus, the new legal framework will apply to all packaging and waste placed on the European market, regardless of their origin or use.

Prevention, the priority challenge

Among the main challenges of the new regulatory project is that of prevention, which translates, for example, into achieving a reduction in the weight of packaging waste produced compared to 2010 of 13% in 2025, and 15% in 2030. In addition, the aim is to ensure that all packaging placed on the market is 100% recyclable and reusable by 2030. In line with other European laws, the aim is to put an end to the marketing of single-use plastic packaging. Another important milestone is that it is advocated to achieve the objective in 2025 that the proportion of reusable packaging marketed in the domestic channel with respect to total packaging should be 5%, increasing progressively to 15% in 2035.

In order to achieve these goals, the involvement of all market agents is sought, through different measures, such as the promotion of life cycle studies and analyses (with a focus on the analysis between economic cost and benefit), the prevalence of the substitution of single-use packaging for reusable and reused packaging, or the promotion of measures to enable consumers to purchase reusable packaging at points of sale.

To reach these goals, the involvement of all market agents is intended, through different measures, such as the promotion of studies and life cycle analysis (with an analysis approach between the economic cost and the benefit), the prevalence of replacing single-use packaging with reusable and reused packaging or favoring measures so that consumers can purchase reusable packaging at points of sale.

The new regulation encourages the involvement of all agents, from the perspective of waste prevention

Challenges in recycling

Regarding recycling, the future Packaging Law states that between a minimum of 55% and a maximum of 80% by weight of packaging waste will be recycled. In addition, it is stated that it will be recovered in waste incineration facilities with a minimum of 60% by weight of packaging waste. Starting in 2025, a minimum of 65% by weight of all packaging waste will be recycled.

Different requirements are also established for the design and marking of products, which should reflect their entire life cycle from the perspective of reducing their impact on the environment. In addition, the extended responsibility of manufacturers is modified, having the obligation to ensure the quality and safety of the products that are put up for sale in the market.

Despite these ambitious challenges, the plastics sector has a long history of working on improving innovation processes in recycling. Thanks to this, it has positioned itself as an efficient industry that can respond with guarantees to the needs of consumers. Along these lines, it is worth highlighting the work of companies such as Repetco, which offers its own patented system, respectful of nature, through multilayer PET/PE food containers of post-consumer origin. Through a unique process, rPET pellets and rPE are generated that can be used again in the food industry with trays and containers made of multilayer PET/PE sheets; in bottles for soft drinks or detergents; and in fibers for the textile and automobile industry. 

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