Application of the Italian Environmental Labelling to cosmetic products

The Italian Legislative Decree of 3 September 2020, n°116 – in force since 26 September 2020 – has made “environmental labeling” mandatory on all packaging in Italy, including cosmetics. The aim is to prevent and reduce the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment, ensuring at the same time a high level of environmental protection. The application of this labeling for the current year has been finally clarified with the conversion in the law of the so-called “Decreto Milleproroghe 2021”, by partially suspending some obligations.

[Update 2022]

The law of 25th February 2022, n°15 has been published in the Official Journal (Gazzetta Ufficiale), which converts the decree-law of 30 December 2021 n. 228 (the so-called DL Milleproroghe).

Art. 11 of this new provision has further postponed the obligations for the environmental labeling, previously set to 30 June 2022. Indeed, it provides for the suspension of the labeling obligation as of 31 December 2022, as well as the possibility of marketing stocks of products already placed on the market or labeled by 1 January 2023.

Furthermore, the provision includes a deadline of 90 days from the entry into force of the decree-law, within which the Ministry of Ecological Transition (MITE) will adopt the technical guidelines for environmental labeling by means of a non-regulatory decree.

What are the environmental labeling requirements?

The Legislative Decree n°116 has updated another Legislative Decree, n°152 of 3 April 2006 on Environmental Regulation. Labeling requirements are described by art. 219, paragraph 5. The up-to-date version of this article is reported below:

“All packaging shall be appropriately labeled in accordance with the procedures laid down in the applicable UNI technical standards and in compliance with the decisions of the European Commission, in order to facilitate the collection, reuse, recovery, and recycling of packaging, and to provide consumers with proper information on the final destination of packaging. For the purposes of identifying and classifying packaging, producers are also required to indicate the nature of the packaging materials used, on the basis of Commission Decision 97/129/EC.”

There are two main implications for environmental labeling:

  1. Packaging made available for consumers must be labeled in a clear way with appropriate indications for disposal.
  2. Producers must indicate the nature of the packaging material by using the alphanumerical code provided by Decision 97/129/EC.

The recent conversion in law of the “Decreto milleproroghe” in force since March 2nd, 2021 has partially suspended the application of art. 219 – in particular the point 1. – until December 31st, 2021.

What is mandatory at the moment?

If the obligation to display the appropriate information for the correct waste disposal has been suspended for the whole 2021, the second sentence (point 2.) of the article is already mandatory. Indeed, producers must report on packaging the alphanumerical code to identify the material, following the numbering and abbreviation system present in Decision 97/129/EC. We report here some examples referred to plastic:

Plastic material Alpha-numerical code
Polyethylene terephthalate PET 1
High density polyethylene HDPE 2
Polyvinyl chloride PVC 3
Low density polyethylene LDPE 4
Polypropylene PP 5
Polystyrene PS 6
Annex I of Commission Decision 97/129/EC

The Decision further reports the code for other materials, like metals, paper and glass.

What will be mandatory?

After 31st December 2021, the information for the correct disposal of the packaging will be mandatory. This aspect has not been detailed by art. 219 and in the decree, for this reason, each company can decide the best way to deliver this part of the labeling.

Some suggestions have been proposed by the useful guideline developed by CONAI, the Italian packaging consortium, that you can consult directly by clicking here. For example, the CONAI approach is to report the wording “(Material family) collection” and invite the consumer to check their local municipal guidelines.

Difference between packaging destined for B2B and B2C channels

The last part of the first sentence of art. 219: “and to provide consumers with proper information on the final destination of packaging”, as highlighted by the CONAI guidelines, led to an important consideration.

The consumer or user is defined by the Italian Consumer Code, art. 3, paragraph 1 as a: “natural person who acts for purposes extraneous to any business, commercial, artisanal or professional activity carried out…”. Also art. 218, paragraph 1, letter v) of Legislative Decree 152/2006 refers to the consumer as “the person who, outside the exercise of a professional activity, purchases or imports packaging, items or packaged goods for his own use”.

For this reason, the information on the final destination of packaging for its correct disposal must be displayed only on packaging that is provided to the end consumer (B2C), while packaging destined to B2B commerce, namely for professional activity, should be excluded from this requirement and must bear only the alphanumerical code for the correct identification of the material.

  Packaging for B2B channel Packaging for B2C channel
Information for the correct disposal of packaging for consumer Not mandatory Mandatory
Alphanumerical code for the identification of material Mandatory Mandatory

Who should display the environmental labeling information?

As reported by art. 219, producers must indicate the alphanumerical code on the packaging. The definition of producers is given by art. 218 of the same decree: “suppliers of packaging materials, manufacturers, converters and importers of empty packaging and packaging materials”.

However, the spirit of the Legislative Decree n°152 is to operate in the view of a “joint responsibility” along the entire supply chain and that all actors are potentially responsible and punishable.

Biorius recommendations for cosmetic products that are sold in Italy are:

  • To check whether the alphanumerical code from Decision 97/129/EC to identify the material is already reported on the packaging. If not, this information must be displayed as it is mandatory since the entry in force of the Legislative Decree, i.e., 26 September 2020. This is valid for packaging for both B2B and B2C channels.
  • To start thinking about how to adapt the labels and packaging by reporting the appropriate information for the correct disposal of packaging. This requirement will be mandatory after 31 December 2021 and it is applicable to packaging for B2C channels.

Biorius remains at your disposal for any questions related to this topic and we will ensure that you are informed about the latest updates and all regulatory developments related to The Italian Legislative Decree of 3 September 2020 and environmental labeling requirements. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your dedicated CRM (Customer Relationship Manager).

Best regards,

Davide Musardo

Regulatory expert



  • Frédéric Lebreux

    Dr. Frédéric Lebreux is Biorius's Chief Executive Officer and has worked in the cosmetic industry for more than 13 years. He is regularly invited as a speaker or Professor to cosmetic events.

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