EU – The amount of used packaging sent for final disposal in Europe is declining rapidly, according to a EUROPEN analysis of official EU data on packaging waste.
When compared with economic growth, the analysis indicated a decline in packaging waste. 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 176kg over the same period. The net effect across EU-27 was a reduction from 160 kg in 2005 to 157 kg in 2010.
Virginia Janssens, acting Managing Director of EUROPEN, explained that higher recovery rates, in particular recycling rates, have largely contributed to the decline in packaging waste sent for final disposal.
“In 2010, just under 18.7 million tonnes of used packaging were sent for final disposal in the EU 27 member states,” she said. “To put this into context, it has been estimated that 89 million tonnes of food were wasted in the EU 27 in 2006.”
Meanwhile, 76% of packaging placed on the EU-27 market was recovered in 2010, against 67% in 2005. Recycling rose from 55% in 2005 to 63% in 2010, while 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, while recycling rose from 57% in 2005 to 65% in 2010. The amount sent for disposal fell from 30% in 2005 to 21% in 2010.
This EU policy states that waste should be treated as a resource, and aims to ensure 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 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.
Janssens noted that the Eurostat data “also reflects how the packaging supply chain has used less and less material to get product 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,” she added.
The European Organization for Packaging and the Environment - EUROPEN - is an industry organization which member companies have an economic interest in packaging and packaged goods. It presents the opinions of its members on issues related to packaging and the environment.