Environmental Protection and EC Anti-Trust Law: The Commission's Approach for Packaging Waste Management Systems


  • Anatole Boute is a graduate in law (cum laude) and political science (cum laude) and holds an LL.M. in environmental and energy law from the University of Leuven (summa cum laude). He is currently an associate at the law firm of Lawfort in Brussels, where he specializes in energy and environmental law. He wishes to express his many thanks to Prof. Dr Geert Van Calster for comments on an earlier draft of this article. All errors and omissions remain the author's sole responsibility.


The use of environmental agreements by companies as a tool to improve environmental protection can be hindered by a strict interpretation of competition rules. This article analyses how the European Commission attempts to reconcile the requirement of environmental protection with anti-trust law, by examining the principles that the Commission has defined in its assessment of packaging waste management systems. Although the Commission has considered that some agreements concluded under these schemes were restrictive of competition, it decided not to prohibit them. This article argues that, although attention is given to environmental considerations, the arguments invoked to justify the exemption of these agreements do not allow for integration of environmental protection, as such, in European competition policy. An alternative would be to apply standards of assessment comparable to those used to justify exceptions to the free movement of goods.