Call for an EU approach to packaging waste labeling

October 20, 2021 – On March 23, 2021, nine members of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) party of the European Parliament submitted a question to the European Commission. They requested the implementation of a harmonized labeling system for the recycling of products.

On June 24, 2021, several industry associations – including Cosmetics Europe – addressed a joint letter to the European Commission asking to harmonize the approach to packaging waste labeling among the EU Countries.


Legal responsibility

The obligation to comply with the national provisions concerning packaging waste labeling is the responsibility of the company that places the product on a specific EU Member State market. This role is generally undertaken by distributors and importers, but it is advisable that cosmetics manufacturers are aware of these requirements.


Let’s have a look at the status of packaging waste labeling. We will mainly focus on the most common symbols used across EU Member States!

The Triman logo

The Triman logo has been introduced in France by the Decree 2014-15733 and, since January 1, 2022, it will have to be mandatorily displayed on the labels of recyclable products – including cosmetics. The symbol aims to inform the consumer that the product must be recycled appropriately: at the end of its life cycle, the item has to be thrown away in the correct collection bin.


Additional provisions in France

According to Article 17 of the Law 2020-105 on the Circular Economy and the fight against waste, in France it is also compulsory to include the sorting instructions in the national language on the label.

The Industry Associations have expressed their opposition because the newly adopted Law fragment the internal market and constitute a trade barrier, as manufacturers must realize a specific packaging for France. Conversely, a multi symbols label may confuse the consumer.


Furthermore, Article 62 of the French Law 2020-105 foresees a financial penalty for the use of any signs that may lead to confusion on the sorting instructions of the product. These markings are defined by decree of the French Ministry of the Environment.

The Ministerial Order of November 30, 2020, has, for example, clarified that, among the symbols that are penalized, there is the Green Dot logo. At present, the application of this order is suspended because the French Council of State questioned the legality of the provision in light of the EU law. In particular, related to the prohibition to adopt measures having an equivalent effect to a quantitative restriction on imports. The French Supreme Administrative Court will decide on the matter in 10-18 months.


The Green Dot logo

The Green Dot implies that, for the wrapping on which the symbol is affixed, a financial contribution has been paid to a qualified national packaging recovery organization. It is important to underline that the Green Dot does not have any environmental or recycling meaning. Hence, it must not be confused with a green claim.

The European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste provides that EU Member States, together with economic operators, must realize a system to collect and recover packaging waste. Therefore, the Packaging Recovery Organization Europe (PRO Europe) was founded, and the Green Dot logo adopted.

The use of the Green Dot symbol is mandatory in Spain and Cyprus. In the other EU Countries that have applied the Green Dot policy, its use is voluntary (see above for its use in France).


Identification system for packaging materials: Italy, Slovenia, and Portugal

The Commission decision 97/129/EC establishes a system of numbering and abbreviation to identify the packaging materials that Member States can implement within their national legislation.

In Italy, Legislative Decree 116/2020 came into force in September 2020, which introduces the obligation to display on the packaging the alphanumerical codes mentioned above within the universal recycling symbol (Möbius loop). Additionally, sorting instructions must be added on the packaging. The separable components of a packaging (ex. bottle and cap) have to be labeled individually.

In Slovenia, the codes’ use identified in the Commission decision 97/129/EC will be mandatory as of January 1, 2022.

In Portugal, the Government is discussing a draft to amend Decree-Law No 152-D/2017  establishing the marking system for both reusable and non-reusable packaging. The draft includes the obligation to affix the alphanumerical codes of the above Commission decision before goods can be placed on the Portuguese market.

Moreover, it will be necessary to indicate the sorting instructions – including the color of the recycling bin – on the packaging. Lastly, the selling of packaging marked with the tidy-man symbol will be prohibited.


The tidy-man symbol

The tidy-man symbol does not have any regulatory nor recycling meaning: it is affixed on packaging to remind consumers to dispose of waste appropriately.


A much-needed harmonization

A common EU approach to packaging waste labeling is needed to avoid confusion among consumers and to enhance the internal market. The same applies for sorting instructions that are not harmonized at the European Union level, either.




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