EU Ecolabel criteria for printed paper, stationery paper and paper carrier bag

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On 1st December 2020, the European Commission published the Decision (EU) 2020/1803 of 27th November 2020 establishing the EU Ecolabel criteria for printed paper, stationery paper, and paper carrier bag products.

This decision merges the product groups “printed paper” and “processed paper products” in the new group “printed paper, stationery paper, and paper carrier bag products” (code 053). It comprises the following products (Article 1):

  1. Printed paper products composed of at least 90% by weight of paper, paperboard, or paper-based substrates, except for books, catalogues, booklets or forms that shall consist of at least 80% by weight of paper or paperboard or paper-based substrates.
  2. Envelopes that consist of at least 90% by weight of paper, paperboard, or paper-based substrates.
  3. Paper carrier bags, includingwrapping paper, that consist of 100% by weight of paper, paperboard, and paper-based substrates.
  4. Stationery paper products, including filing products, that consist of at least 70% by weight of paper, paperboard, and paper-based substrates, except for suspension files and folders with metal fastener to which the threshold does not apply.

For the products in points a) and c), the plastic component cannot exceed 10% by weight, with the exception of ring binders, notebooks, diaries and lever filing classifier, for which it must not exceed 13%.

New criteria for a stronger sustainability

The criteria aim to promote products with high levels of sustainable and recycled fibers, low emissions and containing limited quantities of chemicals. To achieve this, the criteria aim to:

  • Request that the paper substrate, including cardboard, be certified with the EU Ecolabel.
  • Induce an approach based on the analysis of the product life cycle.
  • Request the use of raw materials obtained from sustainably managed forests or recycled materials.
  • Establish strict limits for the use of hazardous substances.
  • Establish requirements that ensure product recyclability and an adequate waste management system, including limits on the maximum amount of paper waste generated.
  • Establish emissions requirements, in particular with regard to the reduction of emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), thus helping to ensure the positive effects that follows both for the health of workers and for the reduction of air pollution.
  • Establish requirements on the energy consumption of the production site.

The criteria for awarding the EU Ecolabel for “printed paper, stationery paper, and carrier bag products”, accompanied by specific requirements for assessment and verification, are identified in the Annex to the Decision:

  1. Substrate
  2. Restricted substances
    1. Restrictions on SVHCs
    1. Restrictions on substances classified under Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council
    1. Biocidal products and biocidal active substances
    1. Cleaning agents
    1. Alkyl phenol ethoxylates, halogenated solvents and phthalates
    1. Further restrictions applying to printing inks, toners and varnishes
    1. Toluene recovery from rotogravure printing
  3. Recyclability
    1. Removability of non-papers parts
    1. Repulpability
    1. Adhesives removability
    1. Deinkability
  4. Emissions
    1. Emissions to water from rotogravure printing
    1. Emissions from installations covered by Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council or equivalent installations
    1. VOCs emission from printing processes not covered by Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council
  5. Waste
    1. Waste management system
    1. Paper for recycling from printing facilities
    1. Paper for recycling from stationery paper product and carrier bags production sites;
  6. Energy use
  7. Training
  8. Fitness for use
  9. Information on the product
  10. Information appearing on the EU Ecolabel.

With the Decision 2020/1803/EU it becomes possible to certify an entire line of products.

This is a significant innovation per the EU Ecolabel mark which, in the past, could only be attributed to individual products.

Focus on paper recyclability

Note the growing importance of recyclability requirements in the criteria for awarding the EU Ecolabel paper products, in perfect correspondence with the most recent European directives about the “Circular Economy”.

The analytical method of reference for the EU Ecolabel criteria is the same on which, recently, CEPI is structuring a proposal for a harmonized standard at European level: the Aticelca 501 scheme. It has been developed in 2011 with the contribution of Assocarta, Assografici and Comieco associations and it became a UNI standard in 2019.
This analytical system simulates the phases of the industrial process of a paper mill, from the recovered row material to the production of the new sheet of paper. The laboratory test analyses the main elements that determine the recyclability of paper, cardboard and paper-based products, allowing to evaluate the results on the basis of a qualitative index divided into four levels (A+, A, B, C).

Terms of validity of the EU Ecolabel criteria for printed paper, stationery paper, and carrier bag product

Unless in case of changes in validity because of the innovation for the two groups of products, the new criteria and related assessment and verification requirements will remain valid until 31st December 2028.
This Decision (EU) 2020/1803 repeals the previous decisions 2021/481/EU and 2014/256/EU: the producers of printed or converted paper articles awarded the EU Ecolabel on the basis of the criteria established by these repealed decisions will have 18 months from the date of entry to force of this decision to use the brands assigned with the old criteria and to apply for adaptation to the new requirements.

Ho to get the EU Ecolabel?

Our experts, thanks to the know-how acquired over years of analytical and consulting for the paper and board industry, can help you to get and maintain the EU Ecolabel for every kind of paper-based article.

For any doubt or need on EU Ecolabel for paper products:

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