What are the latest developments concerning environmental legislation globally? We’ve picked out some highlights for you for December 2021.

Revision of the EU Packaging Directive further delayed

3 December 2021

The European Commission has let it be known that the proposal for the revision of the EU Packaging Directive will probably not be published until the second quarter of 2022. The initial plan was to present the proposal this year. Then, publication was postponed until the first quarter of 2022.

With the revision, the Commission wants to update the packaging essential requirements, among others, to improve recycling and increase the uptake of secondary raw materials. The Commission’s proposal will be based on a study compiled by the consultancy firm Eunomia. Landbell Group has given its comments on this study.

Council and Parliament continue work on Battery Regulation

Work on the new EU Battery Regulation is making progress – both in the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.

In Parliament, the regulation is almost at its final stage. After the responsible rapporteur, Simona Bonafé, presented her draft report in September, all other members of the leading Environment Committee had the opportunity to submit their comments.

In total, there are almost 1,500 amendments to the Commission’s proposal. Parliamentarians see a need for improvement especially in Chapter VII on End-of-Life Management of Batteries, which regulates extended producer responsibility.

Parliamentarians also took up some proposals from Landbell Group company European Recycling Platform (ERP): for example, regarding the definition of portable batteries or the introduction of cross-border enforcement networks.

The same applies to ERP’s proposal to calculate the collection rate for waste portable batteries according to the ‘available for collection’ method. The vote on the amendments in the leading committee ENVI is scheduled for the end of January.

In Council, the discussions are likely to take a little longer. The reason for this might be that most Member States favour a dual legal base allowing certain flexibility in the implementation of Chapter VII on End-of-Life Requirements. Thus, the final negotiations will fall to the French presidency, which starts on 1 January.

Nevertheless, member states have already begun to come up with proposals for amendments. Again, the corresponding draft documents contain some proposals that were put forward by ERP: for example,  a distinction between national and EU-wide authorised representatives and extending the market surveillance provisions to those of Chapter VII.

ERP will continue to engage in the legislative process, proposing amendments, providing justifications resulting from its operational experience, and discussing these with the institutions.

European Commission to combat online freeriding

The European Commission wants to combat freeriding by improving compliance with extended producer responsibility (EPR) obligations for online sales. To this end, it has commissioned a study from the consultancy firm Eunomia to assess the scale of the freeriding problem and to identify regulatory measures to improve the situation.

A stricter enforcement framework that addresses distance sales is also a priority from article 8a (5) of the EU Waste Framework Directive for Member States to be transposed by January 2023.

At the beginning of November, the first results of the study were presented and discussed with over a hundred stakeholders at an online workshop in which Landbell Group took part. The focus of the discussion was on the list of regulatory measures developed by Eunomia.

Among other things, the consultants propose better harmonization of requirements among Member States including a European register (or at least single national registers) covering all waste streams to reduce complexity for online shops.

In addition, online marketplaces would be obliged to inform their sellers of their EPR obligations and to crosscheck whether their information matches that of the register.

The final study is to be published in March. It is still to be seen when – and in what form – its results will translate into concrete legislative action.

Waste shipment within the EU to become easier

The European Commission has published a proposal to revise the Waste Shipment Regulation. The aim of the revision is to facilitate the transport of waste for recycling and reuse within the European Union and thus accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Exports to third countries, on the other hand, are to be further restricted.

The Commission’s proposal includes the following measures:

  • A closer alignment of waste shipment rules with the waste hierarchy
  • A shift to digital solutions for issuing and exchanging the information and documents required for shipping waste between EU Member States
  • The improvement of the fast-track procedure for shipments of waste
  • A more harmonised classification of waste shipped within the EU
  • Restricting the export of all waste to non-OECD countries
  • Stepping up the monitoring of EU waste exported to OECD countries
  • Requiring EU exporting companies to show that their exports are sustainable
  • Establishing clear criteria to prevent waste from being falsely exported as ‘used goods’
  • Establishing an EU ‘waste shipment enforcement group’ to increase cooperation and coordination against illegal shipments of waste
  • Empowering the Commission to support transnational investigations by EU Member States into waste trafficking
  • Strengthening the existing rules on administrative penalties against illegal shipment of waste

In parallel with the publication of the proposed regulation, the Commission has launched a public consultation, which will run until 17 January. After that, discussions will continue in the European Council and the European Parliament.

New regulations for bioplastics planned

The European Commission is working on a new legal framework for biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics. The aim is to close gaps in the current legislation and to harmonise regulations across member states. In addition, the Commission wants to ensure that these materials contribute to climate neutrality and the circular economy.

In its roadmap for this initiative, the Commission is considering implementing the following measures:

  • establishing clear definitions for biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics
  • for biobased plastics, establishing new methodologies for assessing the sustainability of the feedstock and new labelling requirements
  • for biodegradable and compostable plastics, setting new criteria for the use of these materials and new requirements for testing, labelling and certification of degradation properties

So far, the terms “biobased”, “biodegradable” and “compostable” are not sufficiently clearly defined, which causes confusion, not least among consumers. In addition, there is a lack of clear sustainability requirements that consider the entire life cycle of these materials.

A concrete legislative proposal is expected for the second quarter of 2022.

Landbell Group company, European Recycling Platform (ERP) participated in the stakeholder consultation, agreeing with the need to set better rules for these materials.