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Brussels, 7 October 1998

Commission decides Reasoned Opinion against Denmark in the Can Ban case

The European Commission has decided to notify a Reasoned Opinion to Denmark because its general ban on the use of metal cans for beverages ("can ban") does not comply with the Packaging Waste Directive. In addition, the Reasoned Opinion addresses the Danish ban on the marketing of beverages of domestic origin in non-refillable glass and plastic packaging, which also infringes the Packaging Waste Directive.

This directive  Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste has two objectives: on the one hand, it aims to lessen the environmental impact of packaging waste; and on the other hand, it aims to ensure the smooth functioning of the internal market. It provides for a common framework for imposing environmental controls on packaging. It also sets out measures to prevent the production of packaging waste as well as measures to reuse packaging and to recycle or otherwise achieve recovery of packaging waste.

Under the terms of the Directive, Member States cannot impede the marketing on their territory of packaging which satisfies the provisions of the Directive. Furthermore, Member States must respect the terms of the EC Treaty when transposing the Directive. From 1998, packaging may be placed on the market only if it complies with all essential requirements defined by the Directive, including those of Annex II. These essential requirements concern the composition and the reusable and recoverable nature of packaging. Thus, the Directive envisages a balance being struck between considerations concerning the free circulation of goods and considerations concerning environmental protection.

The decision just taken follows the Commission's investigation of several complaints alleging that the Danish can ban and the ban on non-refillable but still recoverable plastic and glass packaging for domestic beverages were contrary to the Directive and the Treaty. The relevant Danish beverage packaging legislation forms part of Denmark's implementing measures for the Directive.

The Commission believes that it is possible for metal cans (whether made from aluminium or steel) to fulfil the essential requirements for composition and nature of packaging set out in the Directive. Therefore, it should be possible to place them on the market. This applies also in respect of non-refillable but still recoverable plastic and glass packaging. In the Commission's view, the Directive harmonizes the technical requirements for the packaging, and a Member State cannot deviate from its rules unilaterally. The Packaging Directive has created a common standard for protection in this respect, which the Member States should respect.

The above decision reflects the Commission's concern that, in implementing the Packaging Waste Directive, Denmark has not struck the appropriate balance between the different considerations which should govern rules on packaging.

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