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Home > Legislation & Strategy > European Legislation and Strategy > Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

The EU first introduced measures on the management of packaging waste in the early 1980s.  Directive 85/339/EEC covered the packaging of liquid beverage containers intended for human consumption only but it was too vague to bring about the effective harmonisation of national policies.  As a consequence, diverging national legislation appeared in several Member States.

Only some EU Member States introduced measures on packaging and packaging waste management with a view to reducing their environmental impacts.  Serious internal market 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 where no such schemes were in place.  Collection and recycling activities that relied on cost recovery through the sale of secondary raw material were threatened by collapse.

For this reason, economic operators and Member States approached the Commission to introduce comprehensive legislation on packaging.  In 1992, the Commission came forward with a Proposal for a Council Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste.  Following a prolonged discussion in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, Directive 94/62/EC was adopted.

This Directive aims to harmonise national measures in order to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment and to ensure the functioning of the Internal Market.  It contains provisions on the prevention of packaging waste, on the re-use of packaging and on the recovery and recycling of packaging waste.

In 2004, the Directive was reviewed 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 allow new Member States transitional periods for attaining the recovery and recycling targets.

More information about EU waste and packaging policies and laws can be found within the environmental  section of the European Commission website at

A comprehensive review of individual EU country packaging compliance costs can be found here

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