HomelabelsEnvironmental packaging labeling, the ministerial ABC

Environmental packaging labeling, the ministerial ABC

Legislative Decree 116/20 in introducing the obligation of environmental labeling of packaging has raised many doubts and perplexities. In order to support companies in the application of the legislation, the Minister of Ecological Transition therefore issued, on 15.03.22, the “Guidelines on packaging labeling pursuant to art. 219 paragraph 5 of Legislative Decree 152/2006 and subsequent amendments ".

Environmental labeling of packaging. Premise

Legislative Decree 116/20, published in the Official Journal on 11 September 2020, as seen, amended the Environmental Code (Legislative Decree 152/06) (1) and introduced the following obligations, on goods destined for the national market:

1) the obligation to identify the packaging materials through a specific alphanumeric code, according to decision 129/1997 / EC, and

2) to indicate the correct management at the end of life of the packaging intended for the final consumer.

The application of the environmental labeling requirements was then postponed to 31.12.21 by Legislative Decree 3.12.20 n. 183. And subsequently postponed, first with DL 31.12.21 n. 228, as at 30.06.2022, and again at 31.12.22 by the conversion law n.15 / 22 (2). With the expectation of issuing the technical guidelines for the labeling of packaging, presented here, by 30.1.22.

the 16.03.2022 the Minister of Ecological Transition has therefore adopted the decree n. 114 adopting the Guidelines, notified to the European Commission on 7 April 2022. The text, barring objections, will be published on the ministry's website at the end of the three-month suspension period which will expire on 8 July 2022.

The Packaging Labeling Guidelines

Legislative Decree 116/2020 provides that all packaging is:

'' appropriately labeled according to the procedures established by the applicable UNI technical standards and in compliance with the decisions adopted by the European Union Commission, to facilitate the collection, reuse, recovery and recycling of packaging, as well as to provide consumers with correct information on final destinations of packaging. Producers are also obliged to indicate, for the purposes of identification and classification of the packaging, the nature of the packaging materials used, on the basis of Commission Decision 129/1997 / EC.  

The guidelines they therefore dwell on this provision, to clarify its contents.

1) All packaging must be labeled "appropriately". This means that the company will have to label them in the form and manner it deems most suitable and effective for achieving the objective.

2) Reference to the UNI standards. It is defined as a "generic" reminder, considering their characteristic of voluntariness. But what information can be communicated through the UNI standards to which the standard refers?

- Packaging material identifications for plastic packaging. When Decision 129/1997 / EC does not provide for a specific identification for a specific polymer, UNI EN ISO 1043-1 is applicable for the identification of plastic materials not included in Decision 129/1997 / EC, and UNI 10667-1 to identify and recognize recycled polymers.

- Packaging material identifications for multilayer plastic packaging. Also in these cases, Decision 129/1997 / EC does not provide for specific identification codes: the UNI EN ISO 11469 standard offers an interesting support for communicating the composition of structures made up of several polymers.

- Environmental self-declarations. If you wish to communicate additional information of a voluntary nature relating to the environmental qualities of the packaging (wordings, symbols / pictograms or other similar messages, claim environmental), reference must be made to the UNI EN ISO 14021 standard.

3) Compliance with the decisions adopted by the Commission of the European Union, to facilitate the collection, reuse, recovery and recycling of packaging. At the moment, among the "decisions" adopted by the Commission on the issues indicated, we find only Decision 129/1997 / EC.

4) Who are the consumers?  As already established by the Consumer Code, the consumer is "the person who, outside the exercise of a professional activity, purchases or imports packaging, items or packaged goods for his own use".

5) What is the information on the final destinations of the packaging? The information relating to the final destinations of the packaging are those that communicate the correct delivery of the packaging at the end of its life (eg. Separate collection. Check the provisions of your Municipality).

6) What packaging are they about? The information on the final destinations of the packaging (ie those that communicate the correct delivery of the packaging at the end of its life) applies to the packaging offered to the final consumer, for sale or even free of charge. On the other hand, packaging intended for the commercial / industrial channel (so-called B2B) is excluded.

The obligation to indicate the nature of the packaging materials used applies to all packaging, including that intended for professional channels. The obligation to affix the identification codes of the material on the basis of Decision 97/129 / EC is expressly for the producers.

Fig1 environmental labeling of packaging

The guidelines they also contain a review with reference to the existing technical legislation. Among the additional aspects addressed by the Guidelines, to which reference should be made, are the following:

- when a packaging is considered recyclable,

- when it is considered compostable,

- which packaging can be disposed of in separate collection.

- mating or treatment: the> 5% rule

- how to identify the type of polymer of the plastic packaging if it is not foreseen in Decision 129/1997 / EC

- correct collection and recycling of waste similar to biodegradable or compostable waste

- environmental labeling for shopper in plastic

Contents of the labeling

From reading the law There are two different situations for the structuring of the minimum contents of the label according to the circuit of final destination of the packaging:

1) B2B (commercial / industrial) or

2) B2C (consumer).

Starting from this assumption, in addition to presenting the separate schemes for B2B or B2C destination, the Guidelines also address the situations that can be configured based on the packaging structures:

- single component packaging / packaging systems e

- multicomponent.

The schemes presented contain three levels of information:

- Mandatory to comply with the standard;

- Highly recommended, to make communication more effective;

- Recommended, to enrich with useful content for a quality collection.

The casuistry

The following cases are then examined:

1) Environmental labeling of single-component packaging intended for B2C

In this case, the following information must be reported:

a) The identification code of the packaging material according to Decision 129/1997 / EC

b) Information on collection.

It is suggested, then:

- to indicate the formula "Collection (family of material prevalent by weight)" or

- to indicate the family of material prevalent by weight, accompanied by the formula "Separate collection" e

- to invite the consumer to check the provisions of their municipality.

The other information that can be voluntarily affixed on the label concern the type of packaging and the indications to the consumer to support him in a quality separate collection.

2) Labeling of multi-component packaging intended for B2C

The multi-component packaging it is a system consisting of a packaging called the main body (for example a bottle), and other packaging, called components (such as the cap or the label), which can be manually separable or non-separable from the main body.

In this case, it is necessary to distinguish the components which cannot be separated manually from the components which, on the other hand, can be separated by the final consumer. In fact, identification and classification must be provided for all manually separable components. On each of them must be reported, at least:

a) The identification code of the packaging material according to Decision 129/1997 / EC

b) Information on harvesting when not indicated on the external presentation packaging.

It is suggested, then:

- to indicate the formula "Collection (family of material prevalent by weight)" or

- to indicate the family of material prevalent by weight, accompanied by the formula "Separate collection", e

- to invite the consumer to check the provisions of their municipality.

When it is not possible indicate the mandatory information on each individual component, these must be reported on the main body or on the presentation packaging. According to the following format recommended:

a) Type of packaging (full written description or graphic representation) of the various manually separable components;

b) With reference to each type of packaging, indicate the identification code of the packaging material of each component that can be separated manually according to Decision 129/1997 / EC;

c) Referring to each type of packaging, report the information on collection, clearly specifying the family of material / s of each component.

You can also voluntarily support, with specific indications, the consumer to make a quality separate collection.

If the accessory components are not separable manually (e.g. adhesive labels, non-separable caps and closures, windows), these must necessarily report the identification code of the material of the main body, and the indications on collection (which follow the material of the main body). Where possible, only the identification code of the material can be affixed as per Decision 129/1997 / EC also on the components that cannot be separated manually, but, on these, the indication on the collection must not be indicated.

3) Labeling of packaging intended for B2B

If intended for professionals, or if they are transported or linked to logistic or exhibition activities, the packages may not have the information relating to their final destination, but must necessarily bear the coding of the composition materials in compliance with Decision 129/1997 / EC. All other information remains, however, voluntarily applicable.

How to build the labeling

The guidelines they therefore report information, accompanied by some examples of labeling, which may contribute to the contents of the label:

- Alphanumeric coding by Decision 129/1997 / EC

- Material family

- Information on the collection.

Recalling that, in any case, the company has the right to communicate with freely chosen graphic and presentation methods, as long as they are effective and consistent with the objectives set by the legislation.

Special cases, defined by the Ministry of Ecological Transition with a note dated 17.05.2021, are the following:

- Neutral packaging in general, with particular reference to those for transport and / or possible semi-finished products;

- Get ready and variable weight packaging for distribution;

- Small packaging, multilingual, import;

- Use of digital. In any case, to make environmental labeling information available, it is always possible - through App, QR code, websites - to use a digital tool that refers to a page specifically dedicated to convey the contents of the environmental labeling concerning the specific packaging. Provided that access to specific information for the packaging in question is easy and direct, and that this information is timely and not difficult to interpret, digital channels can completely replace or supplement the information reported directly on the packaging.

Labeling, synthesis

The contents of the Guidelines are summarized in the table below. By schematically representing the topics of greatest interest: the contents, divided into mandatory and recommended; the methods, therefore the position and the format, for which preferable but not binding choices are proposed, and the timing.

fig2 environmental labeling for packaging

Further reading, please refer to the text of the Guidelines.

Our team di DO is available for the construction and revision of the labels of food products and other goods for Italy and other markets, both EU and non-EU.

Dario Dongo and Giulia Torre


(1) Don Dongo. Packaging labeling, postponement to 30.6.22. The guidelines are coming. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). two. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi-e-moca/etichettatura-imballaggi-rinvio-al-30-6-22-in-arrivo-le-linee-guida 

See also: Dario Dongo. Legislative Decree 116/20, labeling of food packaging. Inapplicable rules. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). two. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi/d-lgs-116-20-etichettatura-degli-imballaggi-alimentari-norme-inapplicabili

Dario Dongo. Packaging labeling, theoretical postponement to 31.12.21. The government offense is renewed. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). two. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/etichettatura-imballaggi-rinvio-teorico-al-31-12-21-si-rinnova-l-illecito-governativo

(2) Although the mandatory labeling of packaging enters into force on 1 January 2023, operators in the sector will still be able to market products without the new requirements if these are already placed on the market or already labeled on 1 January 2023. , while supplies last.

After 31.12.2022, packaging - even if empty - that has been labeled (which therefore has already been printed, or for which the label has already been produced / affixed) can be marketed before 31.12.2022. Or packaging that has been purchased, by that date, by packaging users from their suppliers.

On the late notification of packaging labeling obligations, please refer to D. Dongo. Environmental labeling of packaging, notification in Brussels. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). two. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/imballaggi-e-moca/etichettatura-ambientale-degli-imballaggi-notifica-a-bruxelles 

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Graduated in law, master in European Food Law, she deals with agro-food, veterinary and agricultural legislation. She is a PhD student at the AGRISYSTEM School for the Agri-food System, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, with a thesis on novel food.

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