EU Agrees to Ban Single-Use Plastic for Fruit and Vegetables

by Ella

The European Union has reached a provisional agreement to enact new legislation aimed at reducing packaging waste and banning single-use plastics, particularly those used for supermarket fruit and vegetables.

Negotiators representing the European Parliament and Belgium, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, reached an accord on March 4th. The agreement sets targets to reduce packaging by 5% by 2030 and 15% by 2040, with a mandate for all packaging to be recyclable by 2030.


The EU emphasized the necessity of this deal, citing the alarming trend of packaging waste outpacing recycling efforts. Despite increased recycling rates, the EU has witnessed a 25% rise in packaging waste over the past decade, with projections indicating a further 19% increase by 2030 if no action is taken. Notably, plastic packaging waste is expected to surge by 46% by 2030.


In 2021, the EU generated 188.7 kilograms of packaging waste per capita, marking an increase of 10.8 kilograms per person compared to the previous year.


The proposed legislation seeks to modernize regulations governing packaging waste, aiming to address the surge in waste generation driven by factors such as online shopping and the popularity of grab-and-go products. If ratified, the new rules will replace the existing directive adopted in 1994, which has undergone multiple revisions.


The scope of the ban extends to items like sauce sachets, disposable plates, cups, and boxes commonly used in fast-food establishments. Additionally, the legislation aims to prohibit the use of “forever chemicals” (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances or PFASs) in food contact packaging.

European MP Frédérique Ries hailed the agreement as a significant victory for the health of European consumers, highlighting its potential to address concerns regarding harmful chemicals in food packaging.

In a separate move last month, the European Commission initiated a consultation process on the proposed ban of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly found in food and drink packaging, following concerns raised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regarding its impact on human health.

The provisional agreement also includes provisions to increase re-use targets, such as a 10% target for takeaway packaging and drinks containers (excluding wine or milk containers).

The EU emphasized that the proposal prioritizes the safety and sustainability of packaging, requiring that all packaging be recyclable and minimizing the presence of harmful substances. The legislation aims to significantly reduce packaging waste by imposing binding re-use targets, restricting certain types of single-use packaging, and mandating economic operators to minimize packaging usage.

Micro-enterprises are exempt from meeting the targets outlined in the legislation.

While advocacy group Zero Waste Europe welcomed the strides made in addressing chemicals in food packaging, it expressed concerns about exemptions favoring certain types of packaging, particularly paper-based and composite applications.

Industry stakeholders have also voiced reservations about the ban, with Philippe Binard, general delegate of industry association Freshfel Europe, criticizing the move as poorly conceived, discriminatory, and potentially illegal. Binard suggested that legal challenges to the ban are likely to arise, particularly concerning the use of plastic packaging for fruits and vegetables.



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