The European Commission is set to introduce a new regulation which for the first time foresees provisions to limit the size of packaging and the volume of “empty space” in the boxes that are shipped throughout Europe by online retailers.
The ecological impact of e-commerce has not gone unnoticed in the eyes of the European institutions due to the rapidly increasing tonnage of packaging generated, which is why the EU intends to address this concern as part of a review of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, due on 30 November.
A crucial point of the new draft EU regulation is to secure the “minimisation of packaging” and the cutting down of the “empty space” that is in many cases filled with polystyrene, air cushions or paper cuttings.
In accordance with the draft, for e-commerce in particular, sellers would have to be sure that “the empty space ratio is a maximum of 40 per cent”, of course as this is only a draft that might change by the time it is announced on 30 November.
Moreover, “packaging with double walls, double bottoms and other means of creating the impression of increased product volume, or superfluous packaging that does not perform a packaging function … shall not be placed on the market,” states the draft regulation.
Nevertheless, the European packaging industry argues that the contribution of e-commerce to Europe’s packaging waste challenge has a tendency to be overestimated by policy makers due to the fact that it is more visible to the end consumer.
Actually, e-commerce in Europe only constitutes “about 7% of the carton market”, while the vast majority is used for bulk shipments that are never reaching the end consumer.
Both the Commission and ecologists are convinced that e-commerce can do more to curb packaging waste and foster recyclable forms of packaging.
In its new draft regulation, the EU Commission is proposing a 20% target for reusable packaging in e-commerce by 2030, rising to 80% by 2040.
The world’s largest online retailer Amazon also appears to endorse the environmentalists on this issue. The US corporation admits that ” not all items require additional packaging”.
Moreover, Amazon has reduced the use of plastic as “empty space” filler in packages sent to customers. In this context, the firm claims that this year in the European retail network, plastic air cushions have been substituted with 100 per cent recycled and 100 per cent recyclable packaging paper.
At Taxmen we can help online stores to comply with EU Green dot rules.