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Generation and recycling of packaging waste (CSI 017/WST 002) - Assessment published Nov 2012

Indicator Assessmentexpired Created 07 Nov 2012 Published 14 Nov 2012 Last modified 27 Jan 2014, 09:58 AM
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Key messages

The generation of packaging waste per capita in the EU has followed a growing trend until 2006. Between 2006 and 2009, a stabilisation was observed, while in 2009 effects of the economic downturn were reflected by a decreased level of packaging waste. In 2010, amount of packaging waste generated became 157 kg/capita following a slight increase in the trend after the economic downturn. This is a clear indication that, neither decoupling waste generation from economic growth nor the EU policy objective of waste prevention has as yet been accomplished for this waste stream.

However, the recycling schemes appear to be quite effective for packaging waste. After 2000, recycling covered more than 50% of the generated packaging waste, a lot higher than the 25% target of the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste for the year 2001. In 2008, recycling covered 61% of the generated waste, already exceeding the 2008 target of the Directive, which is 55%. The situation improved slightly in 2010 as the recycling rate of 63,2% was achieved at the EU-27 level.

Are we preventing the generation of packaging waste?

Packaging waste generation per capita and by country

Note: The figure shows the packaging waste generation per capita and by country in the period from 1997 - 2010. The Croatian data reflects the collected amount (not the generated amount)

Data source:
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Packaging waste generation per capita and by country

Note: The table shows the packaging waste generation per capita by country 1997 - 2010. The Croatian data reflects the collected amount (not the generated amount)

Data source:
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Generation of packaging waste and GDP in the EU-15

Note: The figure shows the generation of packaging waste and GDP in the EU-15 countries from 1998-2010

Data source:
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Generation of packaging waste and GDP in the EU 27

Note: The figure shows the generation of packaging waste and GDP (Gross domestic product) in the EU27

Data source:
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There are large variations between Member States in the generation of packaging waste per capita, ranging from 195,6 kg/capita in Germany and 202,1 kg/capita in Luxembourg to 42,5 kg/capita in Bulgaria (2010) (fig 1. and fig 2.).The average packaging waste generation amount for the EU-27 was 153,1 kg/capita in 2009 and 157 kg/capita in 2010, after the period of 2005-2008 when it has remained fairly stable at a constant level of 160-164 kg/capita  (fig. 2).

However, there are clear differences between the EU-15 and newer Member States (EU-12) reflecting different levels of consumption of packaging. No EU-12 country has generation per capita rate exceeding that of a EU-15 country, except for Greece. The variations within EU-15 countries are hard to explain. One explanation could be different market shares of reusable packaging. It is also possible that some Member States may have uneven coverage of data collection or slightly differing definitions of packaging and understanding of which types of packaging waste is to be reported to the EU Commission.

Trends in the generation of packaging waste per capita vary between the countries (fig 2). While some countries (e.g. Italy and Portugal) experienced a relatively constant increase until 2008, others (e.g. France, Austria, Bulgaria and Slovakia) have been able to stabilise and even reverse the increase in generation. The trend is less clear for 2009-2010 and also in the data reported by the Denmark and Sweden due to a change in data reporting of packaging materials on stock at companies.

While there are significant year to year variations, the general trend in EU-15 shows that amounts of packaging were slowly rising except the drop in 2009 resulting from the economic downturn. Altogether, the packaging waste generation in the EU-15 saw slight relative decoupling from GDP (fig.3) between 1998 and 2007 growing by 11%, compared to a 19% growth in GDP (expressed in fixed price levels of year 2000) over the same period. However, the impacts of the recent economic downturn can already be observed on the data for 2008-2009: both the GDP and the amount of paper, plastic, metal and glass packaging waste have declined by around 5% between 2007 and 2009 in the EU-15, while both showed a 2% increase from 2009 to 2010.

Regarding the four main fractions of the packaging waste stream (glass, metals, paper & cardboard, plastics), their total generation and share of the total generation has changed over time, Figure 3 shows that with some fluctuations, the trend of generation of these materials follows the pattern of the total packaging waste generation per capita. However, the materials mainly responsible for the increase in the total generation are paper and plastic packaging wastes.

In 2009, the economic downturn decreased the GDP of EU-27 to a level which is still higher than the GDP level in 2005. At the same time, the amount of packaging waste generated has decreased by 4% (fig. 4) compared to 2005, while both the GDP and the amount of packaging waste per capita increased by 2% from 2009 to 2010. 

Do we manage the generated waste (packaging) in a sustainable way?

Recycling of packaging waste by country, 2008 and 2010

Note: The figure shows the recycle of packaging waste by country in 2008 and 2010

Data source:
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Treatment of packaging waste in the EU-15

Note: The figure shows the treatment of packaging waste 1997-2010

Data source:
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Treatment of packaging waste in the EU-27

Note: The figure shows the treatment of packaging waste 2005-2010

Data source:
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Recycling is a key element in the management of packaging waste.

Table 1: Targets of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

 

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 EU-12 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

The minimum target of 25 % recycling of all packaging materials was achieved by all EU-27 members in 2006. Furthermore, by 2008, 15 out of the 27 Member States had complied with the overall 55% minimum recycling targets of the packaging and packaging waste directive for 2008, and 5 additional Member State met this target by 2010 (fig. 5). The total recycling rate in the Member States in 2010 varied greatly, from 28,5 % in Malta to 84 % in Denmark.

The average EU-15 recycling rate for packaging waste has increased from 42 % in 1997 to 65,3 % in 2010, whereas the average EU-27 recycling rate has increased from 55% in 2005 to 63,2% in 2010 (fig. 6 and fig. 7). Disposal option for packaging waste treatment has been gradually decreasing and the option to incinerate has remained in a stable trend around 12-13 % since 2005.  

To achieve the Directive targets, several Member States have introduced producer responsibility and established packaging waste recycling schemes. In addition, some Member states have introduced economic instruments (e.g. taxes, deposit systems) and improved their existing collection and recycling infrastructure.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

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.

Units

kg per capita, percentage


Policy context and targets

Context description

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.

Targets

Table 1: Targets of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

By weightTargets in 94/62/ECtargets 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

Methodology

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.

Formula:

(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.

Formula:

(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

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

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.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

Waste and material resources Waste and material resources (Primary topic)

Tags:
disposal | recycling | packaging waste | waste | decoupling
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 017
  • WST 002
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1997-2010
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Jasmina Bogdanovic

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2012 2.5.3 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100