Packaging Waste (no longer updated)

The packaging and packaging waste directive (94/62/EC) was amended in January 2004 by directive 2004/12/EC. The revised directive sets new recovery and recycling targets for a five-year phase. The Conciliation Committee (between Parliament and Council) has reached a compromise on the review of the Packaging Waste Directive – permitting Member States to count incineration for recovery targets.

Council Directive 94/62/EC of 15 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste requires Member States to take the necessary measures to prevent the formation of packaging waste. This legislation wanted to provide a high level of environmental protection while at the same time ensuring the functioning of the internal market.

By July 2001, Member States were supposed to introduce systems for the return and/or collection of used packaging. Furthermore the directive defined the following targets:

  • recovery of at least 50 per cent and maximum 65 per cent by weight of the packaging waste
  • recycling of at least 25 per cent and maximum 45 per cent of the weight of the totality of packaging materials, with a material-specific minimum recycling rate of 15 per cent.  

The proposed revision of the packaging and packaging waste directive aims to increase the recovery and recycling targets for the next five year phase (2005-2009). It introduces material-specific targets. The proposal also clarifies the definition of packaging in an annex and makes references to "mechanical recycling", "chemical recycling" and "feedstock recycling".

After two readings, Parliament and Council had different opinions on some of the elements in the review of the 1994 Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. Particularly controversial issues were:

  • whether or not the incineration of packaging waste could be counted in Member States' recovery targets;
  • the deadline dates for Portugal, Greece and Ireland to meet the proposed targets.  

The limited review of the Packaging Waste Directive foresees that Member States will have to reach a minimum recycling rate of 55 per cent and a minimum recovery rate of 60 per cent by December 2008.

The delegations of Parliament and Council agreed that, contrary to recent judgements by the European Court of Justice, incineration of municipal waste can be counted in the recovery targets of the packaging directive. The issue will, however, be reviewed in the framework of the EU's upcoming Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling. In a first reaction, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said that the EU had given in to the incineration lobby. The packaging industry and operators of incineration installations welcomed the compromise.

On the issue of deadlines, the compromise states that Greece, Ireland and Portugal have to achieve the targets by 2011. The deadline for the new Member States will be set in a new proposal to be issued by the Commission.

Another contentious issue in the revision of the Directive remains the introduction of a Packaging Environment Indicator (PEI). The PEI is an indicator based on greenhouse gas emissions and waste going to final disposal, which could be used as a 'pass/fail' test to decide whether new packaging could be placed on the market in the EU. While the European Parliament is keen that this proposal be developed and fully operational by January 2005, the European Commission has recommended further analysis of the PEI idea and is encouraging debate with stakeholders.

Dorette Corbey (PES-NL), Parliament's rapporteur is in favour of the development of a Packaging Environment Indicator (PEI) to render packaging prevention simpler and more effective. She said: "In my discussions with the different stakeholders industry argued there was no need for additional prevention measures. Enforcement of the essential requirements would lead to prevention. I am not 100 per cent convinced, but I have decided to ask the Commission to look at standards and, in addition, to ensure their enforcement".

EUROPEN, the organisation for packaging and the environment, wants targets to be realistic and achievable by each Member State with an overall minimum recycling target be set at 50 per cent instead of 55 per cent as proposed by Council. It considers that the call of the European Parliament's Environment Committee for a shortening of the deadline from December 2008 to December 2006 is unrealistic since it would require Member States to increase their recycling achievements by around 30 per cent over their 2000 levels. The packaging industry vigorously oppose the introduction of a Packaging Environment Indicator (PEI) by January 2005.

CEPI, the Confederation of European paper industries, opposes the suggestion to set differentiated material-specific recycling targets at EU level, as these might lead to possible market distortions between the packaging materials. However, it states that the recycling target proposed for paper of 55 per cent, are challenging but achievable. It considers that a Packaging Environment Indicator is unnecessary and would create another burden on the industry.  

EEB, suggested to promote reuse systems by a better definition of waste prevention, a general packaging tax, reuse targets and other instruments. It would like to see a clear distinction between the different options in the waste hierarchy, such as reuse, material recycling, feedstock recycling, energy recovery and incineration. 

  • The  final text was approved on 29 January 2004 by the European Parliament and published in the Official Journal of 18 February.
  • The Commission is currently carrying out two studies whose results will be presented in a report to the Parliament and the Council by 2005: 
    • one on the social, economic and environmental impact of the directive, under the aegis of the Environment Directorate General;
    • the other one on the impact of the Directive on the internal market by DGs Enterprise and Internal Market. 
  • Member States have until 18 August 2005 to implement the directive into their national legislation
  • The Commission will report on the implementation of the directive by 30 June 2005 at the latest

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