Press Release
21 Jan 2013

Packaging Waste Management is Increasingly Resource Efficient – EU Data Shows

A EUROPEN analysis of official EU data on packaging waste shows that over the past twelve years the amount of used packaging sent for final disposal is declining rapidly.

“Higher recovery rates and particularly recycling rates are largely the reasons”, Virginia Janssens, acting Managing Director of EUROPEN, stated on the announcement of the organization’s updated report on packaging waste data. “In 2010, just under 18.7 million tonnes of used packaging were sent for final disposal in the EU 27 member states. To put this into context, it has been estimated that 89 million tonnes of food were wasted in the EU 27 in 2006.”

The EUROPEN analysis shows that growth in packaging waste is clearly decoupling from economic growth. Despite a 17.5% per capita increase in household consumption expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks between 2000 and 2010, an ageing population and a trend throughout Europe toward smaller households, all leading to the purchase of a greater number of packaged goods, the amount of non-wood  packaging placed on the market in the original EU-15 member states rose by just 5.6% over the same period.

Despite the rising prosperity, the amount of packaging put into circulation in the new Member States increased from 79 kg per capita in 2005 to 84 kg in 2010, in the EU-15 it was reduced from 183 kg to 176 kg over the same period. The net effect across EU-27 was a reduction from 160 kg in 2005 to 157 kg in 2010.

Putting a policy context to these new statistics, the European Commission’s Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, says waste should be treated as a resource, and aims to ensure by 2020 that, “waste generated per capita is in absolute decline”, and “recycling of waste are economically attractive options … due to widespread separated collection and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials, energy recovery is limited to non recyclable materials and landfilling is virtually eliminated.”

“The Eurostat data clearly demonstrate the achievements of our industry, in line with the EU Resource Efficiency objectives, stated Ms Janssens. She added that “it also reflects how the packaging supply chain has used less and less material to get products to the consumer in good condition. In the context of overall sustainability, packaging should be regarded as part of the solution, and as a net contributor to achieving the broad sustainability goals of resource optimisation and waste minimisation”.

Other key statistics show that 76% of the packaging placed on the market in the EU-27 was recovered in 2010, against 67% in 2005; and recycling rose from 55% in 2005 to 63% in 2010. The amount sent for final disposal fell from 33% in 2005 to 24% in 2010. In EU-15, recovery increased from 70% in 2005 to 79% in 2010, and recycling, which was 57% in 2005, was 65% in 2010.  The amount sent for disposal fell from 30% in 2005 to 21% in 2010.

The EU Directive set a recycling target of 55% to be achieved by 12 member states in 2008.  The remainder, including the newer Member States, are required to meet the same target by various dates between 2011 and 2015.  All 12 met their 2008 deadline, and by 2010 only five of the 27 Member States had not yet achieved a 55% recycling rate.

A copy of the EUROPEN analysis of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Statistics 1998-2010 can be downloaded below together with the full version of this press release.

Notes to Editors:
1.    For the purposes of packaging waste, “disposal” generally means that the material was either put in landfill or burned without energy recovery.
2.    The EU Commission Decisions setting out the format for reporting on packaging and packaging waste require Member States to report on the amount of packaging placed on the market under the heading “packaging waste generated”. This term is therefore used to describe packaging placed on the market in all official EU documents.  This in turn means that official reports often state that “the amount of packaging waste is increasing”, whereas the true position is that (slightly) more packaging is coming onto the market each year, but less and less of it ends up as waste.

For further information, please contact: EUROPEN Secretariat, T: +32 2 736 36 00

EUROPEN—The Voice of Industry for Packaging and the Environment—is an industry organization open to any company with an economic interest in packaging and packaged goods.  It presents the opinion of its members on issues related to packaging and the environment.