EU countries lax on following packaging waste rules

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Packaging waste, European union

Although the EU's member states were due to impose tougher laws on
recycling packaging waste, only five countries have completed the
task, the European Commission said yesterday.

However the Commission noted that many member states already achieve the more stringent recycling and recovery targets it set last year as an amendment to previous directives on packaging waste.

The new requirements roughly double packaging recycling targets. They will put extra cost pressures on the food industry, which is a major producer of packaging waste.

Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg and the UK have been the only countries to officially submit their legislation incorporating the changes to the Commission for vetting by the deadline yesterday.

Once informed the Commission then checks the legislation for compliance with the directive and can, if necessary, take appropriate further action. The Commission can open infringement procedures against Member States that do not meet the deadlines.

The EU's environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, called on the other countries to follow the rules they agreed to in 2004.

"I am confident that Member states will do their utmost to implement the new rules swiftly so they can have full effect throughout the EU," he said yesterday.

The European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive​ of 1994 as revised last year in 2004, covers all packagingplaced on the market in the EU and all packaging waste, whether it is used or released at the industrial, commercial, office, shop, service, household or any other level, regardless of the materialused.

Countries must introduce systems for the return and collection of used packaging to attain the targets. Bu the end of 2008 a minimum of 60 per cent of packaging waste must be recovered orincinerated. Between 55 and 80 per cent of packaging waste must be recycled. For glass, paper and board the target is 60 per cent by weight. For metals the target is 50 per cent, for plastics 22.5 percent and for wood 15 per cent.

Greece, Ireland and Portugal will not be bound by the targets until 2011. The EU's ten new member states - the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland,Slovenia, Slovakia - have until the end of 2012 to meet the targets.

Member states must also establish databases on packaging and packaging waste.

The unified packaging waste law was established to prevent companies from exporting materials from countries with high recycling standards to those with low standards.

Serious problems arose when cheap secondary materials from countries with recycling schemes that provided funding for collection and recycling appeared on the markets of other member states whereno such schemes were in place. Collection and recycling activities that relied on cost recovery through the sale of secondary raw material were threatened by the actions.

The UK has managed to achieve a 49.6 per cent recycling rate on packaging waste, according to statistics produced by Defra, the UK government department responsible for the programme. The rate isan increase of 22 per cent over the previous year.

The Commission says that the recycling of packaging cut about 0.6 per cent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of €500m in 2001.

The average cost of reducing a ton of CO2 equivalent through packaging recycling increased to €23 tonne in 2001 from €12 per tonne in 1997. The Commission states that recycling packaging is acost-effective option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and many other environmental impacts.

Cutting back on packaging waste is part of the Commission's programme to reduce the amount of rubbish created in the EU. About 1.3 billion tonnes of waste is generated by member countries a year,plus 700m tonnes of agricultural waste. Between 1990 and 1995, the amount of waste generated in Europe increased by 10 per cent according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

About 67 per cent of the waste is either burnt in incinerators or dumped into landfill sites.

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