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Environmental labelling for packaging: mandatory requirement in Italy

Since last September, in Europe, environmental labelling for packaging is mandatory for products intended for the final consumers. This new requirement is part of the EU efforts to promote recycling to turn waste into either new starting materials or energy.

Two European directives on waste and on packaging and packaging waste (2018/851 and 2018/852) were implemented in Italy in Legislative Decree 3 September 2020, no. 116, with the purpose of providing final consumers with clear information on how to dispose of each type of packaging.

A recent development, however (namely the publication of Law Decree 3 December 2020, no. 183), has temporarily suspended the application of the norm providing that “all packaging should be suitably labelled as established in the applicable UNI technical norms and in compliance with the decisions adopted by the Commission of the European Union, to facilitate the collection, reuse, recovery and recycling of packaging, as well as for a correct information to consumers on the final destination of packaging”.

The compliance with this requirement has been postponed until 31 December 2021, along with the obligation to report indications on correct disposal for the aim of recycling on packaging intended for the B2C (business-to-consumer) channel.

Other requirements, however, were confirmed, and are still in force. This is the case, for instance, of the requirement stating that “manufacturers have the obligation to indicate the nature of the packaging materials used, based on decision 97/29/EC of the Commission, for the purposes of identification and classification of the packaging”, in force as of 31 December 2020.

Moreover, the requirement on the inclusion of an identifying alphanumeric code for the material (Decision 129/97/EC) in primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging remains in force as a clear obligation for the manufacturers.

The suspension of some provisions and the confirmation of others is likely to create confusion among manufacturers, distributors and importers of packaging and products for consumption, that are responsible to comply with such requirements.

Private consortiums and associations have been working to make guidelines available to support the sector on the appropriate application of the norms. The lack of univocal indications on how to enforce the requirements is also causing confusion among the sector operators, whose cooperation is essential to support consumers in a controlled process to collect and recycle waste.