Selling products in Italy? You’ll need to know this environmental labelling law

February 6, 2024
5 min read
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Selling products in Italy? You’ll need to know this environmental labelling law

Italy has one of the highest recycling rates in Europe, as 79% of all waste gets repurposed. This is no accident! The Italian government has implemented regulations to help consumers recycle more product packaging. 

Since 2020, brands selling packaged goods in Italy must comply with Decree No. 116. This legislation requires every company in the supply chain to label all their packaging materials (including packaging used for shipping and transportation) with easy-to-follow disposal instructions. 

If you’re new to selling in Italy and want to make sure your packaging complies with environmental labelling laws, here are the key facts you need to know: 

On-pack environmental labelling: mandatory requirements 

Italy’s environmental labelling law is designed to help consumers understand what materials brands use in their packaging and how to dispose of it effectively.

To ensure this information is delivered consistently, Italy has incorporated a piece of EU legislation (Commission Decision 97/129/EC) into its labelling framework, which assigns each packaging material a specific alphanumeric code. For example:

  • Aluminium is ALU41
  • Colourless glass is GL70
  • Corrugated cardboard is PAP20
  • Cotton is TEX60
  • Polyethylene terephthalate is code PET1

Here is an example of the coding on Carrefour’s multipack of Classic Pear Nectar: 

A green and white label with black textDescription automatically generated

Composite packaging also has a set of numeric codes that vary depending on the material makeup. 

Any brands selling packaged goods in Italy must use this coding system to list all the types of packaging materials in their products – bar a few exceptions. 

For instance, multi-material packaging where the second material accounts for less than 5% of the total weight can be classed as single-material packaging. This exemption means printing ink and glue doesn’t have to be listed on most environmental labels. 

In addition to including alphanumeric coding, any packaging intended for end consumers must include disposal instructions written in Italian. 

On-pack environmental labelling: voluntary requirements 

While all brands selling in Italy must incorporate packaging material information and disposal instructions into their product labels, there’s no set design for environmental labels. This means: 

  • Brands can choose the shape and graphics for their environmental label 
  • There are no fixed requirements for the label’s size or on-pack location 
  • Environmental labels can be any colour 

However, the Italian Consortium of Packaging Materials (CONAI) recommends that environmental labels follow the country’s bin colour coding system for each waste type. 

Several garbage cans in a rowDescription automatically generated

CONAI also recommends that brands use short text or graphics to convey information so that consumers can quickly glance at the packaging and know how to dispose of it. The organisation also recommends that brands use the Mobius Loop icon to highlight that an item is recyclable, as it is a widely recognised symbol. 

Online environmental labelling laws in Italy 

Brands with small products (and therefore limited space on their packaging) can display a QR code on their product packaging, linking to further information on its disposal. 

Like on-pack labels, there are no design regulations about how packaging information should be laid out online. Some brands produce basic web pages to lay out all the required facts – but others seize the opportunity to educate consumers on how their product packaging is created. 

A great example of a brand maximising consumer engagement is Innocent Drinks: 

A white background with black text and green textDescription automatically generated

Innocent’s online content showcases its “most sustainable bottle ever”, the evolution of its packaging and some key stats about its environmental credentials. For example, the brand has reduced its plastic consumption by 2,500 tonnes. 

Another good example is Nutella, which uses its Italian website to share some fun ways to reuse its jars: 

A jar with a plant in itDescription automatically generated

Turning a legal labelling requirement into a brand engagement opportunity 

If you’re looking at Italy as a potential market for your brand, you must know the ins and outs of the country’s environmental labelling laws. 

From a legal perspective, the penalties for non-compliant labelling are significant. Companies with incorrect or missing product packaging and disposal labels face fines of up to €40,000.

From a marketing perspective, adapting your brand to meet evolving legislation can create new opportunities for brand engagement. You can use mandatory legal requirements as a springboard to showcase your packaging choices and brand values.

You may feel the information we’ve shared in this blog post is enough to set you on the right path. But if you’re unsure where to start or you’re concerned about the risk of non-compliance, don’t worry. Hooley Brown can help your brand develop packaging that ticks regulatory boxes while maximising marketing opportunities.  

We specialise in helping consumer brands grow internationally, including ensuring companies trading in Italy meet environmental labelling laws. 

We can also help brands tackle obstacles to international growth – for example, how to add packaging disposal and recycling information to multi-market labels. 

Need help with your European packaging and labelling compliance? Book a 30-minute discovery call with me for no-strings expert support.   

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