Oceana: EU Commission’s proposal could be key to tackling ocean plastic pollution at the source

Press Release Date: November 30, 2022

Location: Madrid


Irene Campmany | email: icampmany@oceana.org | tel.: +34 682 622 245

The new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation proposal advocates for deposit return systems across the EU and binding targets for reusable packaging, key measures to reduce marine litter

Oceana regrets that the EU Commission has given in to corporate pressure to decrease the level of ambition and lower reuse targets

Oceana underlines that the European Commission’s proposal for the revised Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation has a high potential to reduce marine litter in European waters, thanks to its binding measures for reusable packaging, deposit return systems and removal of unnecessary packaging. However, Oceana regrets that strong pressure from the industry has led the Commission to propose longer timelines (2040) to achieve significant reductions in single-use packaging. The organisation calls on the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers to raise the ambition of these targets.

The proposal from the European Commission represents a unique opportunity to stop marine litter at its source. It is worrying, however, that reuse targets for beverage packaging and e-commerce containers were decreased, and some of them even halved, when compared to the draft text leaked only a month ago. Now, we rely on the European Parliament and the Council to uphold the aspirations of the text, improve its shortcomings and resist the pushback from big corporations to water it down,said Natividad Sánchez, Director of the plastics campaign at Oceana in Europe.

The text includes the following positive aspects:

  • Mandatory deposit return systems (DRS) for beverage containers across the EU as an effective way to prevent plastic pollution and promote reusable beverage containers. DRS, combined with the promotion of refillables, could reduce the presence of cans and bottles on EU coasts by up to 40%1.
  • Binding targets for reusable packaging. Increasing the amount of reusable packaging that could be returned to the point of sale, washed and used again would reduce the need for virgin plastic, and therefore our reliance on fossil fuels and single-use plastics, which are commonly found in marine and coastal ecosystems.
  • Restrictions on single-use packaging for on-site consumption at hotels, restaurants and cafés.

The proposal will be sent next to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for discussion and revision. Some of the pending topics that should be addressed to ensure that businesses transition to a reuse model include:

  • Set reuse targets for other key packaging categories, such as retail food and household products, as well as reinforce the measures for takeaway food and drink, and e-commerce.
  • DRS should accommodate both single-use and reusable containers and should be also mandatory for glass bottles.
  • Targets for total packaging waste reduction should be much higher than the mere 5% by 2030 and 15% by 2040 included in the current proposal.

Over 40% of all plastic in the EU is used for packaging. The vast majority of this plastic is made from fossil fuels. A lot of it reaches the ocean and ends up accumulating at the bottom of the sea, where it affects marine creatures and underwater ecosystems. Oceana campaigns to leave behind the single-use culture, and to shift to reusable and refillable alternatives.


1 Deposit Return Systems: an effective Instrument towards a Zero Waste Future

2 Plastics Europe: Plastics – the Facts 2022