Posts Tagged Packaging
Apologies for the truly misleading title. Trumpism and Brexitism is getting to me. Yes, it sounds awkward to hold that a tube which is at the very inside of product can be categorised as ‘packaging’. Yet it fits completely within the fabric of the EU’s Packaging and packaging and packaging waste Directive 94/62 (as amended).
The CJEU held 2 weeks ago in Joined Cases C‑313/15 and C‑530/15 Eco-Emballages et al., on the issue whether Rolls, tubes and cylinders around which flexible material is wound (‘Roll cores’) are ‘packaging’ within the meaning of the Directive, hence subject to recycling etc. targets and also to fees under collective schemes. The Directive defines packaging as
all products made of any materials of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from raw materials to processed goods, from the producer to the user or the consumer. ‘Non-returnable’ items used for the same purposes shall also be considered to constitute packaging.
‘Packaging’ consists only of:
(a) sales packaging or primary packaging, i.e. packaging conceived so as to constitute a sales unit to the final user or consumer at the point of purchase;
(b) grouped packaging or secondary packaging, i.e. packaging conceived so as to constitute at the point of purchase a grouping of a certain number of sales units whether the latter is sold as such to the final user or consumer or whether it serves only as a means to replenish the shelves at the point of sale; it can be removed from the product without affecting its characteristics;
(c) transport packaging or tertiary packaging, i.e. packaging conceived so as to facilitate handling and transport of a number of sales units or grouped packagings in order to prevent physical handling and transport damage. Transport packaging does not include road, rail, ship and air containers….
This definitional article then continues with references to an illustrative Annex and an update of this Annex by way of comitology. Any such measures are adopted in accordance with the regulatory procedure with scrutiny, resulting in a new, 2013 Annex 1 to the Directive adopted by the Commission in February 2013, which specifically refers to rolls. At issue in the case was therefore whether the EC had acted ultra vires in that annex (which it had adopted ‘alone’ since the committee established by Article 21 of Directive 94/62 did not deliver an opinion and the Council did not take any decision on the Commission’s proposal).
The Court confirms that roll cores meet entirely with the core definition of the Directive: they protect from the inside the flexible products wound around them, which strengthens those products, allowing their presentation and facilitating their transport and use. A roll core is, moreover, a ‘non-returnable’ item, within the meaning of the second sentence of the first subparagraph of Article 3(1), once the flexible product wound around it has been used up.
A storm in a tea-cup therefore and rolls confirmed as packaging.
(Handbook of EU Waste law, second ed. OUP 2015, Chapter 4).
Cheers to that! The CJEU on excise duties, alcohol, packaging and regulatory autonomy in Valev Visnapuu.
Postscript 10 December 2015 For a similar exercise, see Sharpston AG in C-472/14 Canadian Oil.
Less is sometimes more so I shall not attempt to summarise all issues in Case C-198/14 Valev Visnapuu. The case makes for sometimes condensed reading however it perfectly illustrates the way to go about dealing with obstacles to trade put in place for environmental, public health or, as in this case, both reasons.
Mr Visnapuu essentially forum shops Estonia’s lower prices on alcohol by offering Finnish clients home delivery of alcoholic beverages purchased there. No declaration of import is made to Finish customs and excise, thereby circumventing (accusation of course is that this is illegal) a variety of excise duties imposed for public health and environmental reasons, as well as a number of requirements relating to retail licenses and container requirements (essentially a deposit-return system) for beverages.
Confronted with a demand to settle various tax debts, as well as with a suspended prison sentence, Mr Visnapuu turns to EU law as his defence in a criminal proceeding. The CJEU then had to settle a variety of classic trade and environment /public health questions: whether the packaging and packaging waste Directive is exhaustive on the issue of deposit-return system (answer: no and hence the system additionally needs to be assessed vis-a-vis EU primary law: Article 34 ff TFEU or Article 110 TFEU); whether in the context of that Directive excise duties on packaging may be imposed (yes) and packaging integrated into a functioning return system exempt (yes; in the absence of indications that imported systems are less likely to enjoy the exemption); whether the relevant excise duties fall under Article 34 ff TFEU or Article 110 TFEU (answer: it is part of an internal system of taxation hence needs to be judged vis-a-vis Article 110 TFEU); and finally whether the retail licence requirement needs to be judged viz Article 34 or Article 37 TFEU (answer: mixed, given the various requirements at stake). Final judgment on proportionality is down to the Finnish courts.
Readers in need of a tipple would be advised to postpone until after reading the judgment. Again though the case shows that if one keeps a clear head, classic structures of applying EU law go a long way in untangling even complex matters of law and fact.
In 2008, the Waste Framework Directive was amended (Directive 2008/98) among others to give Member States more leeway in restricting exports of municipal waste.
Article 16(1) WFD now provides
‘1. Member States shall take appropriate measures, in cooperation with other Member States where this is necessary or advisable, to establish an integrated and adequate network of waste disposal installations and of installations for the recovery of mixed municipal waste collected from private households, including where such collection also covers such waste from other producers, taking into account best available techniques.
By way of derogation from Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006, Member States may, in order to protect their network, limit incoming shipments of waste destined to incinerators that are classified as recovery, where it has been established that such shipments would result in national waste having to be disposed of or waste having to be treated in a way that is not consistent with their waste management plans. Member States shall notify the Commission of any such decision. Member States may also limit outgoing shipments of waste on environmental grounds as set out in Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006.‘
The waste at issue is also known as ‘household’ or ‘domestic’ waste. It is not precisely defined in the WFD, although there are various indications pointing to the origin of the waste being relevant: municipal waste is waste collected from private households. (Things are confused by waste collected from industry sometimes being assimilated with ‘household’ waste, namely when its composition is considered ‘similar’; here of course confusion enters. For domestic waste itself would seem to be defined not by its composition but rather by its origin (even though that origin often betrays its composition)).
In Italcave, the Italian Council of State held on the categorisation of waste originating from shredding, sifting and packaging plants (also known as STIR). Thank you to Lucciano Butti for alerting me to the case.
This is where my input ends, I fear: I should like to hear from those possessing knowledge of Italian beyond my limited, summer holiday driven capabilities (and shall update this posting accordingly). From what I understand, the treatment of the waste was relevant in determining the issue however nature of that treatment, and the wastes’ origin and composition is at this stage not entirely clear to me.
There is environmental law and then there is environmental law.
On the one hand of the spectrum, one finds highbrow discussions such as in Kiobel, where novel approaches to regulation culminate in the discussion of how one can, if one should at all, subject multinational corporations to the strictest standards of environmental and human rights law, wherever they operate. These issues speak easily to faculty, students, activists and governments.
On the other extreme, the recent European Commission illustrative list of packaging. It confirms that for instance, wax layers around cheese are not packaging within the meaning of the European packaging and packaging waste Directive. Flower pots are, if they are not intended to stay with the plant for the rest of its life. The list is, I fear, highly relevant. No packaging = no packaging waste laws = no obligations to reduce such packaging, no packaging levies apply, no waste management company needs to be recruited to deal with the waste, no permit required for export, etc. These issues are a bit less handy to entertain with faculty, students, activists and governments. They speak to CFOs and compliance managers, rather than to the media. Lest it be to bemuze or provide ammunition for those who consider the EU to be over-regulatory.
I find it is in pondering both ends of the spectrum that environmental law truly comes to life.
Geert (just in case you wondered: tea bags: not packaging).