Plastics packaging manufacturers may have trouble introducing new products in Europe in a few years, as a result of several amendments to current law.
Some of the amendments, which the European Parliament approved Sept. 3, are drawing fire from packaging and plastics industry executives. For example:
* An amendment introduced by prominent Dutch parliament member Dorette Corbey demanding that the European Commission introduce the use of a ``packaging environment indicator,'' which could be used to establish an environmental acceptability standard for specific types of packaging.
* A proposal that EU members ensure, beginning in January 2004, that new packaging only enter the market if ``the producer has taken all necessary measures to minimize its environmental impact as far as possible without compromising the essential functions of the packaging.''
``In the [British Plastics Federation's] view, this could lead to unfair deselection of certain packs on very spurious grounds,'' said Philip Law, the group's public and industrial affairs director.
The Sept. 3 vote was an early step in a long process to adopt a new European packaging and packaging waste directive. The revised directive is not expected to become law before mid-2003.
Parliament agreed to require EU countries to recycle 65 percent of packaging by weight, up from the current 55 percent goal. European Parliament members also recommended that the deadline for most EU members to enforce the regulation be moved up to December 2006, rather than the 2008 start date proposed by the EU's Council of Ministers.
The BPF welcomed Parliament's decision to retain a 20 percent recycling target for plastics packaging, and rejected a proposal to ban PVC.
But BPF also said the vote to raise the overall percentage weight of packaging recycled is ``illogical'' and is designed to ``play down the role of energy recovery,'' which the industry considers a valuable way to deal with mixed or contaminated waste.
The implications of Parliament's decision still are being considered by European packaging industry leaders. Chief executives from leading producer companies are due to meet Corbey to discuss the amendments in early October, according to Bernhard Borgardt, chairman of the packaging division of European Plastics Converters, a Brussels, Belgium-based trade group for processors.
Much of the industry's input to the regulations and amendments has been reflected by the European Union, said Borgardt, who is sales director of RPC Packaging Holdings GmbH, a German offshoot of Europe's top rigid packaging producer, RPC Group plc. However, he was critical of the concept of a packaging environment indicator.
``We have a very strong feeling that [members of parliament] have a difficulty understanding what they are talking about [in the area of packaging],'' Borgardt said.
The directive amendments still have to be reconsidered by both the Council of Ministers and Parliament before they become law.