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Packaging and Packaging Waste

4 November 2013: The Commission adopts a legislative proposal to reduce plastic bag consumption in the EU



The EU first introduced measures on the management of packaging waste in the early 1980s. Directive 85/339/EEC set rules on the production, marketing, use, recycling and refilling of containers of liquids for human consumption and on the disposal of used containers.

To address the environmental aspects of packaging and packaging waste, some Member States started introducing their own measures in this area. As a consequence, diverging national legislation appeared, a situation that called for harmonization at European level.

To harmonize national measures concerning the management of packaging and packaging waste and to prevent or reduce its impact on the environment Directive 94/62/EC was adopted. The Directive aims at providing a high level of environmental protection and ensuring the functioning of the internal market by avoiding obstacles to trade and distortion and restriction of competition.

In 2004, the Directive was amended to provide criteria clarifying the definition of the term 'packaging' and increase the targets for recovery and recycling of packaging waste. In 2005, the Directive was revised again to grant new Member States transitional periods for attaining the recovery and recycling targets. In 2013 Annex I of the Directive containing the list of illustrative examples of items that are or are not to be considered as packaging was revised in order to provide more clarity by adding a number of examples to the list.

Alongside a number of other waste stream Directives, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive was subject to review of waste policy and legislation in 2014, covering a review of key targets and related elements and an ex-post evaluation ("fitness check").

In 2013, the European Commission adopted a proposal that requires Member States to reduce the use of lightweight plastic carrier bags. This proposal has been subject to discussion with European Parliament and Council and these institutions have found a compromise in November 2014. Formal adoption of the Directive is expected in Spring 2015.

The main steps of the revision process can be followed in EUR-Lex or in the Legislative Observatory of the European Parliament. Background information available in a press release, a memo with questions and answers on the proposal, the Impact Assessment and the executive summary of the impact assessment.