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.