Recycling of Packaging Materials
The Ronchi Decree

By Anthony Sistilli and Gianfranco Puopolo
March 1997

The Authors are partners in Puopolo Sistilli Geffers & Luise, an International law firm specializing in Environmental and Energy Law. They counsel foreign companies and multinationals in all aspects of Italian environmental and energy law, project finance and environmental audits. → See also:

The Italian Parliament has finally implemented EC Directives 91/156, 91/689 and 94/62 concerning the recycling and handling of waste. This new law, Legislative Decree n. 22 of 5 February 1997 (commonly known as the "Ronchi Decree") abrogates a substantial number of laws that previously regulated waste disposal in Italy.

This memorandum focuses on the provisions of the Ronchi Decree regarding packaging and handling of waste, which will come into full effect on 1 May 1997.

Contents

  1. Scope and Objectives of the Ronchi Decree relative to Packaging
  2. Obligations of Producers and Users
  3. National Packaging Consortium
  4. Prohibitions
  5. Separated Waste Collection

I. Scope and Objectives of the Ronchi Decree relative to Packaging

Issues concerning the production, recycling and disposal of packaging materials and waste are governed by articles 34 to 43 of the Ronchi Decree. The provisions contained in these articles apply to a broad range of packaging issues, including prime materials utilized for packaging, finished packaging for retail/unit sales of products and for wholesale or warehousing use (multiple or secondary packaging), packaging for transportation, waste or by-products from packaging, management of packaging waste, and the reuse, recycling and disposal of packaging, its waste or by-products.

The principal scope of the Ronchi Decree is to encourage the reuse and recycling of packaging. To this end, article 37 of the Ronchi Decree sets forth certain objectives which must be met by producers and users of packaging during a period of five years from the date of effectiveness of the provisions relative to packaging (i.e., by 1 May 2002). These objectives are listed in Attachment E to the Ronchi Decree as follows:

  Minimum Maximum
a) Packaging waste to be recuperated as material or components for energy: by weight at least50%65%
b) Packaging waste to be recycled: by weight at least25%45%
c) Any packaging material to be recycled: by weight at least15%15%

In order to determine whether the above objectives are met, article 37(2) of the Ronchi Decree requires all producers, users and businesses involved in the recuperation and recycling of packaging to communicate the quantities and types of materials that have been reutilized and recycled. This information must be provided to ANPA (the National Agency for Environmental Protection) on an annual basis beginning from 1 January 1998 and will concern all reuse and recycling of packaging materials from the previous year.

II. Obligations of Producers and Users

The producers and users of packaging are responsible for the environmental management of the packaging materials and waste produced by the consumption of packaged products. For the purposes of the Ronchi Decree, producers are defined as suppliers of packaging materials and manufacturers, finishers or importers of empty packaging or materials for packaging. Users are defined as business enterprises, distributors or importers of packaging or packaged products.

Pursuant to article 38 of the Ronchi Decree, within six months from the date the Decree enters into full effect, producers and users of packaging may perform their obligations for reuse, recycling and collection by one of the following means:

Users are required to collect free of charge all used packaging and packaging waste and deliver it to a collection point organized by the producers.

Producers that do not join the National Packaging Consortium are required to undertake the following within eight months from the date the Decree enters into force (i.e., by 1 January 1998):

Producers that fail to meet the above requirements will be obligated to join the National Packaging Consortium.

Pursuant to article 38(9) of the Ronchi Decree, all costs associated with the collection, separation, reuse, recycling, recuperation and disposal of packaging and packaging wastes will be borne exclusively by the producers and users. In fact, the Ronchi Decree specifically states that such costs must not be paid by consumers.

Finally, article 36(5) of the Ronchi Decree provides that all packaging must be appropriately labeled, in accordance with the rules established by the European Commission, in order to facilitate collection, reuse, recovery and recycling, as well as to provide consumers with information on the final destination of such packaging.

III. National Packaging Consortium

Within 180 days from the date that the packaging provisions of the Ronchi Decree enter into force (i.e., from 1 May 1997), producers and users of packaging are required to form a National Packaging Consortium (Consorzio Nazionale Imballaggi - CONAI). CONAI will, in effect, replace existing consortia and will be responsible primarily for the preparation of a general packaging waste management and recycling program (the "General Program") that will be designed to meet the reuse and recycling objectives listed in article 37 and Attachment E to the Ronchi Decree (please refer to table above).

The General Program will define the system and methods for all collection, reuse and recycling efforts, as well as set forth the cost burdens to the various producers and users that are members of the consortium. Specifically, CONAI must set forth in the General Program the following:

IV. Prohibitions

With the Ronchi Decree, the disposal of packaging waste in landfills will be prohibited. Pursuant to article 43, beginning from 1 January 1998, packaging waste not returned to the users may be disposed of only in public collection bins that permit the separation of types of waste. Furthermore, beginning from that same date, all packaging in Italy must meet the standards set forth by the European Normalization Committee, in accordance with EC Directive 94/62.

In regard to packaging utilizing lead, mercury, cadmium and chrome, the Ronchi Decree establishes the following limitations:

The above limitations will not, however, apply to packaging composed entirely of crystal.

V. Separated Waste Collection

As a final point of interest, article 39 of the Ronchi Decree requires the Italian public administration to create a system for the collection of waste separated by category, in order to permit consumers to differentiate domestic waste from other types of packaging waste. In the event the State does not organize such a separated waste collection system within one year from the date the Decree enters into force, CONAI may directly organize the collection system.

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