The Legislative Decree 116/2020 (D.Lgs 116/2020) which transposes EU Directive 2018/851 on waste and EU Directive 2018/852 on packaging and packaging waste, makes environmental labelling of packaging mandatory.
It has made important changes to part IV of the “Testo Unico Ambientale” (D.Lgs 152/2006), in particular, the art. 3, paragraph 3, letter c) of Legislative Decree nr. 116 of 2020 made amendments to paragraph 5 of art. 219 of the Italian Environmental Code, on the subject of “Criteri informatori dell’attività di gestione dei rifiuti di imballaggio”.
Starting from January 1st, 2022, the obligation of environmental labelling of packaging comes into force, which requires the identification of the materials of which the packaging is made up and the indication of the correct management at the end of their use.
Therefore, the environmental labelling consists of applying a label to all packaging, and to all its parts that can be separated manually, that is placed on the Italian market to facilitate its collection, reuse, recovery and recycling.
From an environmental sustainability perspective, labelling has different purposes depending on an effective and clear communication between producers and consumer or distributors. Therefore, labelling is used to communicate the environmental impact of the product in an intuitive and simple way to promote responsible consumption.
This raises consumer awareness on green sustainability issues, who will be more inclined to choose environmentally friendly goods, simply by observing the position of the indicator on the scale and the numerical value, compare similar or different products but with the same function.
On the other hand, for producers, the environmental label is a valid and effective means of communication not only for consumers but also for distributors. In particular, the latter are increasingly mindful to environmental issues, demanding a continuous effort from their suppliers. This leads to underline that the label is a fundamental tool not only in the relationship between producers and final consumers, but also in the communication between producers and distributors.
Therefore, the packaging manufacturer will be subjected to the obligation to include information (which will be listed below), depending on the destination that the packaging will have:
- in case of Business to Consumer (B2C) channel, i.e., the packaging is intended for the end consumer:
- the alphanumeric coding that identifies the material used, according to European Decision 129/97/EC. (look at the Appendix below).
- the information needed to lead and assist the consumer in conducting proper recycling collection, such as using the formulas “Raccolta differenziata carta; Raccolta differenziata, verifica presso il tuo Comune…”.
- in case of Business to Business (B2B) channel, i.e., packaging intended for distributors:
- the alphanumeric coding that identifies the material used, according to European Decision 129/97/EC.
- any other information the producer wishes to include on the label is voluntary and not mandatory.
Although art. 219, paragraph 5, clearly states that producers are obliged to indicate the nature of the packaging materials being used, there is no mention about the liability of the person who must put the label on the packaging.
For this reason, the Ministry of Ecological Transition has clarified that this obligation is borne by both the producer and the packaging user. Therefore, it is necessary that specific agreements be stipulated between the parties and that, if it is the user who affixes the label, the producer in any case undertakes to provide all the information necessary for correct labelling.
Furthermore, there is another relevant distinction that must be underlined based on the order of priority of the information that must or could be contained:
- Required (mandatory): the producer must include the information contained in 219 paragraph 5 of Legislative Decree 152/2006, based on Decision 129/97/EC of the Commission of the European Communities. Specifically, all packaging must be labelled and include the material used to produce it, in order to identify and classify the packaging itself. The material used is identified by an alphanumeric code in accordance with Decision 129/97/EC and possibly integrated with the icon provided for in UNI EN ISO 1043-1:2002 (plastic packaging), or in accordance with CEN/CR 14311:2002 (steel, aluminium, and plastic packaging). Furthermore, if the final recipient is the consumer, the label must describe all necessary information on the possible end destination of the packaging once it becomes waste.
- Highly recommended: in the case of “multi-component” packaging, the identification of the individual components, through a clear written description or graphic representation, can help the consumer to correctly separate them.
- Recommended: all the information that the producer can voluntarily include to help the consumer to make a quality separate collection.
As far as sanctions are concerned, art. 261, paragraph 3, of Legislative Decree 152/2006 provides that anyone who fails to comply with the labelling requirements set forth in art. 129, paragraph 5, of the same Decree, will be subject to an administrative fine ranging from 5.200 to 40.000 Euros.
Alphanumeric coding that identifies the material used according to European Decision 129/97/EC