October 20, 2021 – The EU has no harmonised waste labelling requirements. Thus, each State can establish its own rules. 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 harmonised labelling 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 harmonise the approach to packaging waste labelling among the EU Countries.
The obligation to comply with the national provisions concerning packaging waste labelling is the responsibility of the company that places the product on a specific EU Member State market. Generally, distributors and importers undertake this role. However, 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
Decree 2014-15733 introduces the Triman logo in France. From January 1, 2022, it will have to mandatorily appear on the labels of recyclable products – including cosmetics. The symbol aims to inform the consumer that the product must be recycled appropriately. Namely, at the end of its life cycle, the consumer has to throw away the item in the correct collection bin.
Additional provisions in France
According to Article 17 of 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 fragments the internal market and constitutes 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 a 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 of adopting 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. At the end of the article are some updates on this matter.
The Green Dot logo
The Green Dot implies that, for the wrapping displaying the symbol, 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 is not 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 was 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 to the packaging. The separable components of a packaging (ex., bottle and cap) have to be labelled 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 reusable and non-reusable packaging. The draft includes the obligation to affix the alphanumerical codes of the above Commission decision before goods can enter the Portuguese market.
Moreover, it will be necessary to indicate the sorting instructions – including the colour of the recycling bin – on the packaging. Lastly, the Decree will ban the selling of packaging with the tidy-man symbol.
The tidy-man symbol
The tidy-man symbol does not have any regulatory or recycling meaning. It is affixed on packaging to remind consumers to dispose of waste appropriately.
A much-needed harmonisation
A common EU approach to packaging waste labelling is needed. It will avoid confusion among consumers and enhance the internal market. The same applies to sorting instructions for which there is no harmonisation at the EU level, either.
Update from 10/07/2023
Some news from France
On June 30, 2023, the French Council of State annulled the Ministerial Order that originally prohibited the usage of the Green Dot on the labels for the French market. In light of this, using the Green Dot in products for the French market will not result in any financial penalty.
Additionally, in February 2023, the European Commission opened an infringement procedure against France concerning the Triman logo requirements, as it can undermine the free movement of goods within the EU and lead to counterproductive environmental effects. When the French government reply, the European Commission will formally request France to comply with the EU law. Nevertheless, at the moment, manufacturers must fully comply with the Triman logo requirements.
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- European Commission. (2023). February infringements package: key decisions. Retrieved on 10/07/2023
- Légifrance. (2023). Décision nos 449872, 450134 & 450158 du 30 juin 2023 du Conseil d’Etat. Retrieved on 10/07/2023
- Cosmetics Business. (2021). Mandatory environmental labelling: What does the law require? Retrieved on 12/10/2021
- PRO Europe. (2021). Legal Basis. Retrieved on 12/10/2021