Packaging is not only a fundamental tool to protect, preserve and enhance products but at the end of the supply chain it becomes waste with an environmental impact that needs to be minimized.
To improve the sorting of packaging waste, while at the same time increasing consumers’ awareness of the correct disposal methods, a system for the environmental labeling of packaging has been established.
After several delays, this system will come into effect in 2023, to enable companies to give consumers full information about the environmental characteristics of their packaging in a clear, transparent and straightforward way. Here’s what the regulations say.
What is environmental labeling of packaging?
Environmental labeling of packaging is an evolution of the system currently used. This new label is more digitalized, easy to read and contains more complete information, so that consumers are better informed about where packaging materials end up and to aid the collection, reuse, recovery and recycling of packaging.
The new environmental labeling of packaging contains the following information:
- Type of packaging, indicated by a full description or a graphic (e.g. a tub, flask, can or bottle);
- Material identification, using the alphanumeric recycling code established by Decision 97/129/EC (which could eventually be combined with the icon provided for in standard UNI EN ISO 1043-1:2002 for plastic packaging, or in line with standard CEN/CR 14311:2022 for aluminum, steel and plastic packaging, e.g. PET 1 or ALU 41);
- Material family (e.g. Steel, Paper, Aluminum, Plastic, Glass);
- Disposal guidelines, i.e. whether or not the packaging can be stored and recycled.
The environmental label can be applied to the main body of the packaging (e.g. on the box or tray), to the component that already has the label on to make the information more complete and legible, or to the individual components that can be separated manually (e.g. films and caps).
It is possible to include all the information directly on the packaging, ensuring that it is legible and easy for consumers to understand. Alternatively, it is possible to include only the minimum amount of information required by law and link to digital content, for example by scanning a QR code or forwarding to an environmental labeling website.
When does the environmental labeling come into effect?
After the last postponement of the environmental labeling in 2022, the obligation to provide this identification and information on packaging comes into effect on January 1, 2023, and is a requirement for:
- Packaging material suppliers;
- Importers of packaging materials and empty packaging.
Environmental labeling: the regulations
The relevant regulation governing environmental labeling in Italy is Italian Legislative Decree 116/2020, which recognizes EU Directive 2018/851 on waste and EU Directive 2018/852 on packaging and packaging waste. This legislative decree introduced the environmental labeling requirements for all packaging introduced into Italy, regardless of where it was produced.
The guidelines on environmental labeling, which are aligned with the provisions of Italian Legislative Decree 152/2006, are contained in Italian Ministerial Decree 360/2022. This document – aimed at correctly informing those responsible for packaging – was drafted in accordance with the guidelines from CONAI, the National Packaging Consortium.
To support the companies affected, a website dedicated to environmental labeling for packaging was also created: etichetta-conai.com. This web platform can be accessed by anyone and provides all the information, guidelines and regulatory references in full detail.
The etichetta-conai.com website also has a labeling tool that identifies the content of the environmental label and helps companies to create a label that complies with the law and communicates all the information that is useful to consumers. The regulations are also available on the mite.gov.it website by the Italian Ministry for the Environment.
Environmental labeling: the sanctions
Companies that do not comply with the 2023 environmental labeling risk serious sanctions, as prescribed by Legislative Decree 152/2006, with a fine of between 5,200 and 40,000 euro for parties who introduce packaging onto the market that is non-compliant. The financial penalty can be applied to packaging manufacturers, distributors and sellers.
It is important to remember that the environmental labeling for packaging favors the use of digital tools like QR codes, apps or websites. This approach is included in the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan, in line with the simplification, digitalization and technological innovation process.
According to CONAI guidelines, it is best to create specific digital content for each type of packaging so that the consumer can find all the information they need quickly and easily. However, it is advisable to avoid long lists of packaging materials in that digital resource as it could cause problems and misunderstandings for the end consumer.
Volmar can supply food packaging that complies with the new environmental labeling requirements for packaging, offering companies in the food industry a wide range of high-quality custom packaging solutions. We also offer eco-friendly food packaging made from materials that aid waste sorting and recycling to reduce the ecological footprint of food packaging.