European packaging standards adopted

CEN member bodies approve key tools for implementation of EU packaging directive

European standards bodies have voted to approve five standards for packaging placed on the EU market, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) announced today. Once formally adopted by the European Commission, the standards will be the official point of reference for interpreting whether packaging complies with "essential requirements" laid down in the 1994 packaging directive. European packaging association Europen last month predicted that the standards would have a dramatic effect on industry (ENDS Daily 21 March).

Under CEN's voting system standards must be passed for by 71% of CEN's members, weighted by GDP to win approval. A standard on packaging suitable for reuse (EN 13429) has yet to be voted on by CEN members; the five packaging standards approved are:

* an umbrella guidance document (EN 13427), approved by an 88% weighted majority with Austria, Denmark and Ireland voting against and Belgium abstaining;

* requirements on prevention by source reduction in manufacturing and composition (EN 13428), with identical voting as for EN 13427.

* requirements on packaging recoverable by material recycling (EN 13430), approved by a 92% weighted majority with Denmark and Ireland against and Belgium abstaining;

* requirements on packaging recoverable in the form of energy recovery (EN 13431), approved by 96% with Denmark against and Switzerland abstaining;

* and requirements on packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation (EN 13432), approved unanimously but abstentions from the Czech Republic and Greece.

In a statement, CEN stressed that the standards were based on a management systems approach and did not contain "pass/fail" criteria that would effectively ban certain types of packaging. "CEN believes," it continued, "that these standards will permit conscientious manufacturers and packers to meet the legislation and claim free circulation in Europe for packaging."

Negotiation of the standards has been a lengthy and at time controversial process. Environmental groups and countries such as Denmark have opposed the management systems approach precisely because it makes it very difficult to "fail" packaging on environmental grounds.

Approval of the standards bodes ill for Denmark's national ban on sales of beer and carbonated soft drinks in metal cans, against which the European Commission announced court action last year (ENDS Daily 21 April 1999). The Danish government has consistently argued that the packaging directive's essential requirements were "meaningless" without harmonised standards (ENDS Daily 7 October 1998).

Follow Up:
CEN, tel: +32 2 550 0811.

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