Who is responsible for fulfilling the obligation if the customer refuses to affix the environmental label?

The first sentence of paragraph 5, of art. 219 does not specify which subjects are obliged to label all packaging according to the procedures established by the UNI technical standards for correct information for the final consumer. The second sentence of paragraph 5, on the contrary, clearly states that producers are obliged to also indicate the nature of the packaging materials used.

In light of the aforementioned standard, it is at least certain that the “producers” must identify the alpha-numeric coding provided for by Decision 97/129 / EC, and are defined by Legislative Decree 152/2006, as “suppliers of packaging materials, manufacturers , processors and importers of empty packaging and packaging materials ”.

Packaging producers are the subjects obliged to ensure that information about the composition of the packaging is conveyed along the entire supply chain: they are in fact the subjects who know exactly the composition of the packaging.

It is essential, in order to guarantee the final definition of the composition of a finished packaging, that each producer of articles that can be classified as finished or semi-finished packaging, transfers as complete information as possible about their composition to subsequent subjects in the supply chain.

However, it must be considered that the most significant part of the packaging is placed on the market, and in particular delivered to the final consumer, through prepackaged products. It is well known that the labelling of these sales units is often decided and defined by the user of the packaging, who chooses the contents and form, and who approves the layout to be printed and/or reproduced on the packaging.

Furthermore, it is necessary to consider that both national and European legislation establish the need to share the responsibilities of the management of packaging and packaging waste:

– one of the recitals of Directive 94/62 / EC states that “ (..) the development and application of the measures provided for in this Directive should involve and require, where necessary, the close cooperation of all parties in a spirit of joint and several responsibility “;

– art. 217, paragraph 2, Legislative Decree 152/2006 states that “ The operators of the respective packaging supply chains as a whole ensure, according to the principles of shared responsibility, that the environmental impact of packaging and packaging waste is reduced to the minimum possible for the entire life cycle. “.

It is therefore inevitable that the affixing of environmental labeling becomes a sharing activity between the supplier and user of the packaging, that operators may deem it necessary to regulate and formalize through agreements between the various parties involved.

It is also noted that, with regard to sanctions, Article 261 paragraph 3 reads verbatim: “ to anyone who places non-qualifying packaging on the internal market “Required for their labeling,” a pecuniary administrative sanction from 5,200 to 40,000 euros is applied “.

The rule therefore frames, among the subjects potentially subject to sanctions (“anyone“), any sector operator who places such packaging on the market. These operators could include the following categories:

– suppliers of packaging materials, manufacturers, converters and importers of empty packaging and packaging materials;

– traders, distributors, fillers, users of packaging and importers of full packaging.

Therefore, the packaging manufacturer is required to identify the contents of the environmental labeling of the packaging, in particular with reference to the alpha-numeric coding of Decision 129/97 which indicates the composition material, and is in any case required to ensure that this information is made available in the manner agreed with the customer (s).

The physical affixing of the labeling on the packaging, on the basis of what is compulsorily made available by the producer / s, is a shared responsibility, which can be regulated through agreed commercial and contractual agreements, through which the point of the supply chain where one of the actors involved takes on this burden.

These considerations become even more relevant for those cases in which there are obvious physical or technological limitations that make it difficult, if not impossible, to physically affix the environmental labeling directly on the packaging. In these cases (with specific reference to the cases set out in the clarification note issued by the Ministry for Ecological Transition on May 17, 2021), if the mandatory information communication system is done through external media such as digital channels, websites, accompanying documents to packaging or external labels, it becomes even more important to formalize, through an agreement, the commitments and charges that each subject in the supply chain bears, making it clear which alternative solutions are intended to be pursued to fulfill the labeling obligation.

Last modified on 19/11/2021

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