Reducing plastic waste: for the European Court of Auditors it is easier said than done


European Union legislators are currently busy reviewing the legislation of the 27 member states on packaging with a view to greater sustainability. The new regulation on packaging and packaging waste, aimed at reducing waste thanks to more ambitious recycling and reuse targets, would go in this direction. This controversial regulatory act, which concerns many areas of the packaging sector but not only, is seen by the European authorities as a milestone on the road to reducing plastic waste. However, a bumpy road, according to what the auditors of the European Court of Auditors found.

In an analysis of EU action to tackle plastic waste, auditors warned of aconsiderable risk that the EU will fail to achieve the plastic packaging recycling targets for 2025 (50%) and 2030 (55%). Packaging, such as yoghurt pots or water bottles, makes up around 40% of plastic use and more than 60% of plastic waste generated in the EU. It is also the type of packaging with the lowest recycling rate in the EU (just over 40%).

The analysis also highlighted that Member States rely on non-EU countries to manage their plastic packaging waste and achieve their recycling targets. In 2020, almost a third of plastic packaging declared as recycled by EU countries was actually shipped outside the EU for recycling. However, due to the stricter conditions imposed by the Basel Convention, these shipments of plastic waste have been largely banned as of January 2021. We warn that this situation, together with the inability to treat this type of waste in the The EU constitutes a further potential threat to the achievement of the EU’s ambitious targets.

At the same time, the auditors praised the ambitions of the EU, which wants to almost double plastic waste recycling rates by 2030, and underlined the economic opportunities that a similar policy would offer. With this new approach, in fact, the EU could exploit the advantage of being at the forefront and consolidate its position as world leader in the recycling of plastic packaging.