The reuse of packaging, increasingly protected by law

In 2022 new regulations that regulate the reuse of packaging when buying food products were applied.

A key aspect is the exemption from liability of businesses in the face of possible poisoning.

2022 was a good year for the extension of the practice of reusing packaging. Three new regulations protect the use of reusable packaging in the purchase of fresh food, both in small shops and in large chains. This is the Spanish waste law and two royal decrees from December, approved in April.

The most important advance of this legislative innovation is that it makes it mandatory for shops to accept reusable containers (lunch boxes, bags, jars…) that consumers bring. At the same time, it gives responsibility for the state of the containers to consumers and exempts businesses from any responsibility in relation to food safety problems.

And now, we highlight the most important aspects of various rules.

Spanish waste law

Law 7/2022, about waste and soil contaminated by a circular economy, was approved on April 8. 18 article is dedicated to prevention measures and represents an important advance for several reasons.

Obligation to offer products in bulk

First of all, the requirement is established for the first time that shops of 400 square meters or more have a minimum of 20% of the surface dedicated to the offer of products without primary packaging. This includes both bulk sales and offering products with reusable packaging. It is a relevant measure to expand the possibilities of customers who want to avoid buying residues.

Obligation to accept clientele packaging

It also obliges food businesses that sell fresh produce, drinks and cooked food to accept reusable containers that people bring from home. For example, this includes lunch boxes, bags and bottles. However, the law makes it clear that these containers must be suitable for the product to be purchased and that they must be clean. It also specifies that consumers are responsible for being clean and in good condition. At the same time, it obliges businesses to inform customers about the requirements for the use of reusable packaging.


but right to reject dirty packaging

At the same time, it recognizes the right of the trade to refuse a container if it detects that it is dirty or that it is not suitable for some other reason.

Reusable alternatives to single-use plastic products

Article 55 of the law also establishes measures to prevent the sale of single-use products made of plastic. The strategy must be the promotion of reusable alternatives, but the law also gives the option of single-use products made of other materials different from plastic. Specifically, the following reduction targets are set, which are reviewable: by 2026, 50% of these products must have been reduced, while by 2030 the reduction must already be 70% (with the data of 2022 as a reference).

Royal Decree 1021/2022: hygiene and retail trade in food products

On December 13, Royal Decree 1021/2022 was published in the BOE. This rule regulates certain hygiene requirements for the production and marketing of food products in retail establishments.

Confirmed: hygiene and packaging material, responsibility of the clientele

In relation to reusable packaging, it confirms that the consumer is responsible for the hygiene of the containers he provides. Regarding the suitability of the packaging, it specifies that it is also the customer who must ensure that the packaging is made of a material suitable for contact with food.

Like the law, the Royal Decree includes the right of trade to reject a container if it considers that it does not guarantee the safety of the food product.

Exemption from liability in case of food safety problems

The most important innovation of this Royal Decree is that it relieves businesses of all responsibility for poisoning or any other food safety problem that may arise from the use of packaging by customers.

This is a basic aspect so that businesses can make it easier for customers to buy reusable containers with legal and health security. This issue was discussed and worked on thoroughly with supermarkets, trade unions, PIMEComerç, Cambra de Comerç de Barcelona and various catalan institutions in the establishment of the Reuse Protocol, promoted by Rezero.

Commercial packaging, also reusable

Another advance is that the Royal Decree allows the reuse of food containers provided by the trade. In other words, a retail establishment can serve food packaged in a container that can be reused for the same use when it is returned by the customer. In this case, the trade will be responsible for guaranteeing the cleaning and disinfection.


Royal Decree 1055/2022: packaging and packaging waste

Finally, on December 27, Royal Decree 1055/2022 was published on packaging and packaging waste.

Fruit and vegetables, without packaging

In article 7, dedicated to prevention measures, it is determined that businesses must serve fruit and vegetables that are sold in bulk. However, the following exceptions are included: containers of one and a half kilos or more; protected or registered varieties; differentiated qualities; organic farming products, and types of fruit and vegetables that can deteriorate or be damaged if they are sold in bulk. In other words, the styrofoam and clear plastic paper trays with four apples are over. However, trays of strawberries, containers with sliced ​​soup or packages of organic apples, to name three examples, will continue to be found in establishments.

The Royal Decree also urges shops to promote the sale of food in bulk, especially when the packaging does not add value to the product. It also insists on the obligation for establishments of 400 square meters or more to have, at least, 20% of their surface area dedicated to bulk.

Reusable customer packaging: yes

Article 9 of the Royal Decree also includes the obligation of businesses to accept reusable containers without introducing any changes to what was stipulated in the previous regulations.

Own drink points

Regarding single-use containers for drinks, there are two articles that refer to them. Article 8 sets out general prevention objectives for shops and the Horeca channel. For businesses, it is established that at least 10% of the product volume placed on the market in 2030 must be in reusable packaging. In section 4 of article 9, also in relation to drinks, the minimum number of references of drinks that must be offered in reusable packaging is set. This value varies depending on the size of the establishment .

Comerç Verd: information on regulations and much more

This summary of the regulations on reuse in food establishments has been drawn up by Rezero’s Comerç Verd team.

Comerç Verd is a space where businesses can find information and tools to make their offer more sustainable and transmit the message to their customers.

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