3 Key Questions You Should Be Asking to Comply with the European Union's Packaging Regulations

Jack Winder, SRD at FInboot
August 8, 2023

Sustainability has become a megatrend that is shaping multiple industries worldwide, and the packaging industry is no exception. The European Union (EU) has recently unveiled its revolutionary regulations on packaging, which are poised to cause a significant shift in the industry. Understanding these regulations is crucial for companies to navigate the complex regulatory landscape and stay compliant.

The Emergence of Sustainability in Packaging

In response to increasing global concern about packaging leakage into the oceans and the environment, along with consumers becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental impact, sustainable-packaging regulations have seen a rapid increase beyond the initial focus on shopping bags and selective food-service items. These regulations are complex, with varying regulatory maturity across countries, differing terminology, varying scopes, early stages of development, and geographical intricacy.

To better understand this evolving landscape, it's essential to examine recent developments and map regulations across different countries.

The EU's Necessary Shift: From Directive to Regulation

The European Union (EU), a significant player in the global packaging industry, recently proposed a new EU Packaging Regulation, which will replace the previous Directive on Packaging. This new regulation aims to eliminate wasteful practices and streamline the circular economy within the European Customs area.

Source: Plastics 

Unlike the Directive, the Regulation takes immediate effect in the member states without the need for implementing legislation. This new law expands the requirements for packaging and packaging waste in the EU and allows the EU to impose further restrictions and implement surveillance measures.

The New EU Packaging Regulation: A Deep Dive

The new EU Packaging Regulation expands the list of hazardous substances in packaging and aims to reduce the volume of packaging used in the EU currently. The ultimate goal is to ensure that all packaging in the EU is recyclable by 2030. This aligns with the EU's Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to eliminate plastics from landfills.

The new law will also involve the implementation of a special labeling code that would describe chemical composition, recyclability, and waste stream category, harmonized across the EU.

Impact on Businesses: What to Prepare for?

The new EU Packaging Regulation will have significant consequences for businesses that place packaged products on the EU market. 

One notable requirement is the mandatory reduction of packaging waste by 15% per person by 2040, compared to 2018 levels. This regulation also aims to decrease the use of plastic made from fossil fuels in EU plastic packaging. This would reduce overall EU waste by 35-40%. Businesses will also be required to offer reusable or refillable packaging for a certain percentage of their products. By 2030, EU plastic packaging must contain 10-35% recycled content, increasing to 50-65% by 2040.

The PPWR encompasses several important measures, including achieving recyclability and increased recycling, encouraging the use of recycled materials, promoting reuse and refill, banning specific packaging, and reducing packaging waste.

To meet the new regulations requirements, businesses will need to assess their current portfolio of packaging to ensure it meets the definition of waste minimization. Moreover, they will need to provide evidence of their progress and accomplishments. 

Planning for the New Regulations: Questions to Ask

The constant evolution of regulation will require packaging value-chain companies to keep track of changes in order to remain compliant. They will also need to develop capabilities to acquire an understanding of regulatory measures, their scope, and application, as well as the implications for their own businesses and customers.

Here are three critical questions for packaging companies to consider:

  1. Does our organization have a market intelligence team monitoring regulatory changes and competitor actions in our key markets? 
  2. Do we possess internal agile processes for prompt regulatory compliance and business model adaptability?
  3. What technology-level investments should we make in packaging technology for product sustainability?

Regulatory compliance and digitalization: the role of blockchain

To keep pace with the evolving landscape, organizations must embrace digital transformation and innovative approaches now. Blockchain technology, in particular, could be instrumental in addressing these challenges.

The application of blockchain technology, renowned for its transparency, traceability, and efficiency, could prove to be a powerful resource for the packaging industry to transition towards sustainable practices and adhere to environmental regulations.

For example, they could:

  • Implement IoT devices and edge computing to collect and evaluate data to scrutinize their manufacturing processes
  • Integrate machine learning and AI to predict maintenance requirements and optimize production
  • Leverage blockchain technology to track the generation of waste and its subsequent utilization in products or services (recycled products).

Blockchain and Sustainability

Blockchain technology can offer a holistic understanding of a product's life journey. It has the capability to trace the ecological impact of packaging materials, and can be utilized to verify the authenticity of recyclable substances. This facilitates the promotion of a circular economy, and assists businesses in making knowledgeable and eco-friendly choices.

Blockchain for Regulatory Compliance

Blockchain offers a transparent, decentralized ledger that records transactions in real-time, ensuring that all layers along the value chain are accountable and ensuring compliance. By eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries, this technology fosters a heightened sense of trust among stakeholders and investors. It's a game-changing solution that not only streamlines operations but also fortifies the credibility of businesses.

Blockchain and efficiency

Blockchain technology holds the potential to facilitate processes within organizations. Through the implementation of smart contracts, businesses can automate their regulatory compliance procedures, enabling them to swiftly respond to changes in the regulatory landscape. This level of agility can also provide a platform for more efficient transactions. This means businesses will be able to streamline processes and reduce the cost and time associated with certain operations. Overall, this makes businesses more productive while reducing waste in the process.


The European Union's packaging regulations represent a significant shift in the global packaging industry. Companies operating in this sector must stay tuned to regulatory developments in sustainability packaging by tracking changes in their focus markets and implementing processes to address future requirements proactively. The new regulations, while posing challenges, also present opportunities for businesses to innovate and contribute to a sustainable, circular economy. As the packaging industry continues to evolve, its future undoubtedly lies in sustainable practices and compliance with environmental regulations.