Global Packaging Regulations: What should we expect as we welcome the New Year
By Michelle Goschen, Global EPR Manager
With the global prioritisation towards environmental sustainability solutions in the production and manufacturing of goods, there has been an acceleration in the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and guidelines. As we step into the new year, we can celebrate the introduction and update of regulations on a global level that have the primary goal of promoting circularity and reducing companies’ carbon footprint. Three prominent pieces of legislation include the newly implemented Hungary Deposit Return Scheme, the delay of the Single-use Plastics Fund Act in Germany and the implementation of the single-use plastics ban in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
One of the key regulations to enter into legislation is the mandatory Hungary Deposit Return Scheme. A deposit return scheme (DRS) or refund system places a surcharge on a beverage container when purchased and a rebate when it is returned. This DRS applies to all reusable or non-reusable ready-for-consumption or concentrate beverage packaging made from plastic, metal, or glass that is in the form of bottles up to 6 litres, excluding milk and milk-based products. The DRS legislation details the deposit fees for products with a significant focus on non-reusable products. The legislation introduces the imposition of a mandatory deposit fee, the payment obligations for producers, procedures for registering products and the conditions for returning and marketing beverage products. The key parties that play a vital role in the regulation’s implementation include producers, distributors, consumers and concession companies. MOL Hulladékgazdálkodási Zrt or MOHU is the designated entity that will operate and monitor the DRS.
The key parties that play a vital role in the regulation’s implementation include producers, distributors, consumers and concession companies. Producers are responsible for informing distributors of the deposit fee changes, facilitating the return of reusable products and accepting returned items. Distributors are required to enable product returns, operate reverse vending machines and refund the deposit fees. Concession companies play a distinct role in establishing return sites and overseeing the processes of the DRS. Consumers may not have an obligation but are encouraged to return their beverage containers as they are entitled to deposit fee refunds when they return the products. The current mandatory non-reusable deposit fee is HUF 50 per item and the deposit fee for reusable products will be determined by producers. Various deadlines and provisions have been put in place to prepare obligated parties for the implementation of this regulation on the 1st of January 2024. The various provisions include marketing, such as products placed on the market before the 1st of January 2024 that require a mandatory deposit fee but does not have it, may be marketed until the 29th of February 2024. Hungary’s DRS aims to encourage consumers to recycle their beverage containers while pursuing the global call to action for increased environmental sustainability.
While the anticipated Germany Single-Use Plastics Fund Act has been delayed until the 1st of January 2025 it is an important piece of legislation that will continue to drive environmental sustainability ambitions. The regulation implements the Aritcle 8 of the Directive (EU) 2019/904 Single-Use Plastics Directive into national law, to introduce aspects of producer responsibility to manufacturers and importers of single-use plastic products. The regulation obligates manufacturers and importers of single-use plastic products to pay an annual levy, based on the quantities placed on the market the previous year, into a central fund. The legislation applies to all single-use plastics including but not limited to food containers, bags, films, beverage cups up to 3 litres with their cups and lids and tobacco products. The central fund is administered by the German Federal Environmental Agency which is also responsible for collecting funding, refund practices and reimbursing waste management authorities. Public waste management authorities will be eligible to claim refunds based on their score, which will be determined at a later date. A single-use plastics commission involving industry stakeholders and associations will assist in determining levy rates and payment criteria, but the levy rates will depend on the type and quantity of single-use plastic products, with legal provisions being prepared by the Federal Ministry for the Environment.
Manufacturers, sellers and importers of single-use products inside and outside of EU Member states will be obligated under the Plastics Fund Act. Manufacturers are required to register with the Federal Environment Agency and a central reporting service, set up by the Umweltbundesamt, to report annually on product types and quantities. Proposed draft rates per kilogram for various categories have been suggested, but the final figures are still under review. Although this regulation is only due to enter into force by 2025, it is important for obligated parties to understand their obligations and have enough time to prepare for the impending implementation.
With the introduction of 2024, we welcome the UAE ban on single-use plastics in Dubai and its alignment with the country’s ultimate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The ban includes the cease of production and distribution of certain single-use plastics that have been outlined by the Dubai Municipality. While Dubai is a state in the UAE this ban has been described as a blanket ban and follows the UAE trends set by the Abu Dhabi single-use plastics ban enacted in 2022 and the Sharjah single-use plastic bags that is expected to be enacted in 2024. All manufacturers, distributors and importers of single-use plastics within and outside of the Emirate of Dubai will be required to adhere to the regulations. Single-use plastics can apply to all single-use disposable, recycled plastic and non-plastic products such as plastic delivery packaging, plastic bottles, Styrofoam, balloons, cotton sticks, cigarette butts and a variety of plastic packaging and products. However, single-use bags and products made from recycled material within the UAE will be exempt. The exemption was introduced as an aid to encourage private sectors to promote the use of recycled products, support a circular economy and allow the Dubai Municipality to organise awareness campaigns.
Other notable exemptions to this ban include single-use plastic bags that include thin film rolls for packaging certain food products, garbage bags and products intended for export or re-export outside of the UAE. Under the new legislation, sellers are mandated to offer reusable alternatives at a reasonable price and to participate in initiatives that target plastic consumption reduction. To encourage compliance there are several penalties that parties could face if they are not compliant including fines and written grievances. Although this is significant legislation to reduce the amount of single-use plastic imported into and circulated in Dubai, the regulation offers a phased approach to non-plastic products and a complete prohibition on certain products by the 1st of January 2026.
The rapid rate at which EPR regulations are evolving can be frustrating for businesses that seek to make sense of how they might be affected by a potential law. Ecoveritas has and will continue to keep track of and interpret EPR regulations, along with other environmental law impacting packaging and wider sectors. Our exclusive Global EPR Matrix offers a unique insight into environmental packaging, electricals and battery laws that should educate you about your business’s obligations.
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