Packaging industry defends CEN standards

Europen urges European Commission to adopt standards quickly, rejects environmentalist criticisms

European packaging industry association Europen today issued a robust defence of standards for packaging developed by standardisation body CEN, after environmentalists last week described them as "inadequate". The body urged the European Commission to "expedite" their adoption as EU harmonised standards to "eliminate legal uncertainty" for the packaging industry and governments.

Finalised in April (ENDS Daily 27 April), the CEN standards were developed under a mandate from the Commission to provide detailed guidance on how packaging producers could comply with a set of "essential requirements" defined in the 1994 packaging directive.

Drafting was a long and difficult process that failed to satisfy all sides - Denmark and Belgium have both objected to the final outcome. More recently, strong attacks on the standards were launched by Commission waste officials (ENDS Daily 26 September) and EU environmentalist coalition EEB (ENDS Daily 5 October).

Europen today rejected claims made by both groups that CEN's decision to adopt a management control system approach rather than pass/fail criteria undermined the standards' ability to ensure environmental protection, and that environmental groups had been frozen out of CEN's decision-making processes.

An analysis by CEN shows that it did not ignore comments from the EEB, Europen said. Moreover, the group had been invited to all CEN meetings for more than five years. Julian Carroll of Europen said he had "sympathy" with the EEB's complaint that it did not have the financial resources to participate in CEN, but claimed that the result was that packaging had become "caught in the cross-fire between environmental organisations and regulators".

Mr Carroll defended CEN's decision to adopt a management control system approach to the standards, which he claimed would do more to raise environmental performance than "command and control regulation". Had quantified requirements been chosen then "you would need about 50,000 standards," which would then be impossible to alter quickly enough to keep up with industrial innovation, he said.

Follow Up:
Europen, tel: +32 2 736 3521.

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