Estonia's circular economy proposal to EU: Standardized glass bottles

Glass waste.
Glass waste. Source: Aurelia Minev/ERR

The European Commission's latest plan for a circular economy includes, among other things, a ban on small sugar packets and the introduction of biodegradable fruit labels, while Estonia's contribution includes proposal to standardization of glass bottles across companies.

In 2009, the EU created 66 million tons of packaging waste, compared to 78 million tons in 2019. Glass and metal packaging are utilized less frequently, whereas cardboard and plastic packaging are used more commonly.

Kristel Kund, adviser at the environmental management department of the Ministry of the Environment, said that one of the goals of the new circular economy package is to reduce the amount of packaging.

"Future packaging will be required to be designed so that weight and volume are maintained to a minimum, taking into mind the container's function. Empty spaces must also be minimized. Furthermore, deceptive packaging will be prohibited, such as double-walled or double-bottomed containers designed to give the impression of a larger product volume," Kund said.

Certain packaging that the commission deems redundant would be prohibited.

"For fruits and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kilograms, single-use plastic packaging will be prohibited. Similarly, packaging of food and beverages for on-site consumption at hotels and restaurants will no longer be allowed, as well as small packets of condiments, sugar and coffee cream for on-site use will be prohibited. And we no longer want to see mini shampoo bottles, soap packets and other such goods in hotels," Kund explained.

The majority of the commission's proposals, however, concern the future of packaging.

For instance, it should be made explicit which packaging can be considered bio-degradable. Kristel Kund said this will be packaging that is biodegradable under industrial settings, i.e., it would not not necessarily be bio-degradable in the yard with potato peels and oatmeal. Nevertheless, the commission wants to see more bio-degradable packaging.

"Tea bags, coffee capsules, fruit and vegetable labels, and especially thin plastic carrier bags must be bio-degradable to encourage the collection of bio-waste. This packaging should be collected alongside the organic waste it contains."

In addition, the commission would like to make it easier for people to decide which container to put their waste in.

"The European Union wants to standardize container labeling. Identical labels should also be placed on garbage cans so that the packing can be matched with the appropriate container."

For the collection of drink money, the commission proposes a pledge system, which has worked successfully in Estonia for many years.

Estonia proposes a common standard for glass bottles and according to the Estonian proposal the system could be transnational. 

Kund said that uniform packaging methods must be developed so that bottles can be reused by different companies.

The European Commission plans to turn the recommendations into a finalized regulation within the next year.


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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Kristina Kersa

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