The new legislation regulating the packaging environmental labelling will apply as from January 1st 2022.

The reference standard is Article 219, paragraph 5, of Legislative Decree no. 152/2006 (the Consolidated Environmental Act - TUA), as amended by Article 3 of Legislative Decree no. 116 of 3 September 2020 - which in turn transposed Directive (EU) 2018/851 on waste and Directive (EU) 2018/852 on packaging and packaging waste - which prescribes that “All packaging must be appropriately labelled in accordance with the methods established by the applicable UNI technical standards and in compliance with the determinations adopted by the Commission of the European Union, in order to facilitate the collection, reuse, recovery and recycling of packaging, as well as to provide consumers with correct information on the final destinations of packaging. Producers are also obliged to indicate, for the purposes of identifying and classifying packaging, the nature of the packaging materials used, on the basis of Commission Decision 97/129/EC.”

The provision, applicable to packaging meant as products made of materials of any kind and intended to contain certain goods, from raw materials to finished products, as well as to allow their handling and delivery from the producer to the consumer or user, will have a strong impact on the entire chain of packaged food & beverage operators: the environmental labelling obligations will in fact apply to all producers, in the meaning given by the TUA of packaging suppliers, producers, processors and importers of empty packaging and packaging materials.

All operators in the chain must therefore ensure that mandatory information on the nature and composition of packaging materials is conveyed in an appropriate manner to other operators who play a role in handling the packaging, in accordance with the criteria developed by Commission Decision 97/129/EC (link). Content of the mandatory information may vary depending on the circuit for which the packaging is intended (B2B or B2C) and on the structure and composition of the packaging (single-component and multi-component packaging):

  • in the first case (B2B), the mandatory information shall consist of the indication of the alphanumeric code identifying the packaging according to Decision 129/97/EC and the indication of the material family;
  • in the second case (B2C), this information must be supplemented by information on collection, with the inclusion of the formula "collection", accompanied by the indication of the family of material prevailing by weight, or the formula "separate collection", accompanied by an invitation to the consumer to check the provisions of his municipality.

 For both channels, any other information intended to make communication about disposal more effective, e.g. pictograms, environmental statements or similar, can be provided on a voluntary basis.

Difficulties potentially occurring in displaying the mandatory information due to lack of space can be overcome with the use of technology: the Ministry of Ecology Transition has in fact clarified that the communication of mandatory information can also take place with the support of digital channels, Apps, QR codes, websites etc... usable also for the B2C channel, provided that the consumer is made aware of the ways in which he can consult the environmental label.

All operators in the supply chain who place packaging on the market are potentially responsible for not providing the mandatory information: in fact, art. 217 of the TUA prescribes that operators in the respective packaging supply chains as a whole shall ensure, according to the principles of "shared responsibility", that the environmental impact of packaging and packaging waste is reduced to the minimum possible throughout the life cycle. Such a provision is of crucial importance in the food and beverage sector, where the labelling of sales units is defined by the user of the packaging materials for the products intended for the final consumer. In such cases, the user of the packaging will be responsible also for the environmental labelling and the information given to the consumer.  

In any case, even after 1 January 2022, it will be possible to continue to use packaging which has already been placed on the market or which is already labelled without the new environmental labelling requirements until stocks run out.