Generation and recycling of packaging waste
Justification for indicator selection
Packaging represents a use of resources, and has typically a short lifetime. There are environmental impacts from the extraction of resources, the production of the packaging, the collection of packaging waste and the treatment or disposal of the waste.
Packaging waste is covered by specific EU regulations and there are specific targets for recycling and recovery. Information on the amounts of packaging waste generated therefore provides an indicator of the effectiveness of waste prevention policies.
- CEC Structural Indicators No indicator
- OECD Key environmental indicators (KEI) No indicator
- OECD Core Environmental Indicators (CEI) Waste minimisation (to be further developed) L - Recycling rates (glass & paper) S/M
- UNCSD 1996 Rate of waste recycling and reuse. methodology sheet
- UNCSD 2001 Rate of waste recycling and reuse. methodology sheet
Total packaging used in EU Member States in kg per capita.
Recycling of packaging waste as a share of packaging used in EU Member States. The amount of packaging used is expected to equal the amount of packaging waste generated because of its short lifetime.
kg per capita, percentage
Policy context and targets
6th Community Environment Action Programme
- Better resource efficiency and resource and waste management to bring about more sustainable production and consumption patterns, thereby decoupling the use of resources and the generation of waste from the rate of economic growth and aiming to ensure that the consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources does not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment.
- Achieving a significant overall reduction in the volumes of waste generated through waste prevention initiatives, better resource efficiency and a shift towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns
- A significant reduction in the quantity of waste going to disposal and the volumes of hazardous waste produced while avoiding an increase of emissions to air, water and soil;
- Encouraging reuse, and for wastes that are still generated: Preference should be given to recovery and especially to recycling.
Commission Communication COM(2005) 666 "Taking sustainable use of resources forward: A Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste"
This strategy sets out guidelines for European Union (EU) action and describes the ways in which waste management can be improved.
- Reducing the negative impact on the environment that is caused by waste throughout its life-span, from production to disposal, via recycling. This approach means that every item of waste is seen not only as a source of pollution to be reduced, but also as a potential resource to be exploited.
- The objectives preceding the adoption of this strategy still apply, namely limiting waste, and promoting the re-use, recycling and recovery of waste. These objectives are integrated into the approach based on environmental impact and on the life-cycle of resources.
Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)
This Directive establishes a legal framework for the treatment of waste within the Community. It aims at protecting the environment and human health through the prevention of the harmful effects of waste generation and waste management.
- Prime importance is to specify basic notions such as recovery and disposal, so as to better organise waste management activities, since the generation of waste is increasing within the European Union.
- Reinforcing measures to be taken with regard to prevention as well as the reduction of the impacts of waste generation and waste management on the environment. Finally, the recovery of waste should be encouraged so as to preserve natural resources.
Directive 2004/12 on packaging and packaging waste
- Establishes targets for recycling and recovery of selected packaging materials.
Table 1: Targets of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive
|By weight||Targets in 94/62/EC||targets in 2004/12/EC|
Overall recovery target
min. 50 %, max. 65 %
min. 60 %
Overall recycling target
min. 25 %, max. 45 %
min. 55 %, max.80 %
Year to achieve targets
30 June 2001
31 December 2008
Note: Greece, Ireland, Portugal and the New Member States have individual derogations to meet the new targets. Depending on country, the targets will have to be reached 3 to 7 years later.
Source: Official Journal L 365 , 31/12/1994 P. 0010 - 0023 and Official Journal L 047 , 18/02/2004 P. 0026 - 0032
Related policy documents
Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste
European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste
Sixth Environment Action Programme
DECISION No 1600/2002/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 22 July 2002 laying down the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme
Key policy question
Are we preventing the generation of packaging waste?
Specific policy question
Do we manage the generated waste (packaging) in a sustainable way?
Methodology for indicator calculation
The graph of quantities of packaging waste generated is derived by dividing the amount of packaging used in the country by the country's population for the year in question.
(Total packaging waste generation (kg) / Population) = Packaging waste generation per capita
The graph of recycling of packaging waste is derived by dividing the quantity of packaging waste recycled by the total quantity of packaging waste generated and expressing it as a percentage.
(Recycling of packaging waste in tonnes (year x)) * 100 /
Total packaging waste generation in tonnes (year x)
= Recycling rate for packaging waste (%)
Methodology for gap filling
No data gap filling is required
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
- Population statistics (Eurostat)
- Data on packaging and packaging waste (Eurostat)
- National accounts, including GDP (Eurostat)
Data sources in latest figures
The Commission Decision of 3 February 1997 establishes the formats, which Member States are to use in the annual reporting on the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste. However, the decision does not define methods to estimate the quantities of packaging put on the market or to calculate the recovery and recycling rates in more detail to ensure data comparability.
Data sets uncertainty
Due to the absence of harmonised methodology, national data on packaging waste are not always comparable. Some countries include all packaging waste in the figure on total packaging waste generation while other countries only include the total for the four obligatory packaging waste streams; glass, metal, plastic, wood and paper and board.
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Work descriptionFurther work required: The Commission Decision of 3 February 1997 establishes the formats, which Member States are to use in the annual reporting on the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste. However, the decision does not define methods to estimate the quantities of packaging put on the market or to calculate the recovery and recycling rates in more detail to ensure data comparability.
No resource needs have been specified
Deadline2099/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoJasmina Bogdanovic
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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