FoodDrinkEurope position: harmonised packaging sorting instructions

Published: 17/12/2021

FoodDrinkEurope fully supports the need to build a strong circular economy for packaging allowing to reincorporate recycled materials into new products as well as reducing Green House Gas emissions and avoiding littering. This requires significant investments in, and development of post-consumer waste management systems so as to boost recycling rates across the EU Member States.

The work initiated by the Commission to harmonise separate waste collection and sorting, as required by the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC), will be key to the effectiveness of harmonised sorting instructions requirements. Such harmonised sorting instructions labelling system should be based on the following principles:

  • The information should aim to make it easier for citizens to sort their waste correctly and to encourage them to recycle;
  • The information should be clear, concise, easily understandable and actionable by all citizens
  • The system needs to be flexible enough to be adopted in all EU Member States with their current different waste management infrastructures and systems without creating consumer confusion when the same pack is sold in multiple countries.
  • Matching symbols or pictograms should be applied at least on both packaging and collection bins rather than language instructions or colours (language since this needs to be translated and adapted for each EU Member State and colours due to the different colour schemes already in place for waste management in the different Member States). In the case of incorporation of language or colour, it is crucial that the labels are available in different multipurpose designs (e.g. black-and-white vs. colour; with language instruction vs. without language instruction; horizontal vs. vertical layout) so to ensure that the label can be easily used by the relevant stakeholders such as manufacturers, municipalities and waste operators.
  • Additional, more specific information and instructions could be provided via digital means;
  • All relevant stakeholders should be involved in the development of the EU scheme so as to ensure that the symbols will be widely used in a uniform way.