5 Work Victories in Connection with the Upcoming Amendments to the Packaging Act
On 1 May, nearly 30 amendments to the Packaging Act will enter into force, with some amendments having a significant impact on companies. The Chamber actively participated in the drafting of the Act and submitted numerous proposals to the Ministry of the Environment and the Environmental Committee of the Riigikogu to amend the draft act in order to protect the interests of packaging undertakings.
Below, we will give an overview of which proposals of the Chamber reached the Act and which amendments were not included in the Act as a result of pressure from the Chamber.
1. Mandatory measures to reduce food packaging and drinking cups are not included in the Act
The first version of the draft amendments to the Packaging Act provided for a number of mandatory measures that packaging undertakings should have taken in order to reduce disposable plastic food packaging and drinking cups. For example, packaging undertakings should have set a selling price of at least €0.5 for some food packaging and drinking cups, and by 2026 certain foods and beverages should have been packaged only in reusable packaging.
By the proposal of the Chamber, these mandatory measures were excluded from the Act. Instead, an Amendment to the Packaging Act will enter into force on 1 May, according to which a packaging undertaking must take the necessary measures to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic food packaging and drinking cups by 2026 compared to 2023. However, the law does not provide for which measures and according to which timetable the packaging undertaking must implement. Thus, it is up to each entrepreneur to decide how to meet the 2026 target.
2. Deadline for the preparation of action plan postponed
In order to describe measures to reduce single-use plastic food packaging and drinking cups, the packaging undertaking must prepare an action plan which must also be published on the company's website if the company has a website.
If, according to an earlier version of the draft act, the action plan should have been completed by the date of entry into force of the Act, i.e. 1 May 2023, then on the proposal of the Chamber, the undertakings were given a longer term and the action plan must be completed by 1 September 2023 at the latest (§ 398).
3. New data to be submitted for 2023 rather than 2022
Packaging undertakings shall be required to submit information on the quantities of single-use plastic products to the packaging register (Section 24 (41) of the Packaging Act). Initially, data on single-use plastic food packaging and drinking cups should be provided. The new obligation is necessary to assess whether the packaging company has met its 2026 target of reducing the consumption of single-use plastic products.
Packaging companies must submit new data to the packaging register for 2023 but, if possible, also the data for 2022 must be submitted (Section 397 of the Packaging Act). According to an earlier version of the draft act, packaging undertakings should have submitted the corresponding data on a mandatory basis also for 2022. The Chamber proposed to postpone this deadline by at least one year because packaging companies did not collect data on single-use plastic food packaging and drinking cups in 2022. The Environmental Committee of the Riigikogu heard the proposal and postponed the obligation to submit data by one year.
4. It is not required to place a packaging container next to every store
The draft amendments to the Packaging Act also included the obligation that the packaging undertaking must ensure to the consumer the possibility to give away packaging waste separately in the territory of the place of sale. The Chamber opposed this amendment for a number of reasons. Firstly, the change would not have a significant positive impact, as already there is a take-back of packaging and separate collection of waste in the territories of many packaging companies' points of sale. In some points of sale, this requirement may be reasonable, but at the same time there are many points of sale in Estonia where packaging waste is not immediately generated or is generated in very small quantities, such as florists or footwear stores, and it is not necessary to impose a requirement in such places. Furthermore, we were not convinced whether the supervisory authorities had sufficient resources to supervise this requirement. For the above reasons, we made a proposal to the Environmental Committee of the Riigikogu to exclude this requirement from the draft act. The Riigikogu agreed with our proposal and the described amendment will not be included the Packaging Act.
5. Packaging undertakings shall not be required to take back from the waste flow packaging waste of goods sold free of charge
An earlier version of the draft act contained a requirement that a packaging undertaking who sells packaged goods to end-users or consumers is required to take back the sales packaging and packaging waste of the sold goods free of charge from the waste flow.
In the opinion of the Chamber, this requirement is not sufficiently clear and unambiguous and could have caused litigation. For example, it remained unclear what was meant by the waste flow and who would have been entitled to return sales packages free of charge. The amendment would also have led to the risk that the packaging undertaking or recovery organisation would be forced to take back only sales packaging waste that cannot be recycled. Consequently, the amendment would have created confusion and led to higher costs for packaging companies. This provision was not included in the Packaging Act due to the opposition of the Chamber.
A more comprehensive overview of the amendments to the Packaging Act and Waste Act, which enter into force on 1 May, can be read HERE.
If you have any questions about the victories of the Chamber or changes to the Packaging Act coming into force soon, please contact the lawyers of the Chamber by e-mail at email@example.com.