September 2005

Member states miss packaging waste deadline

By August 18, all EU Member States should have transposed into their national legislation an EU Directive setting higher recycling and recovery targets for packaging waste. This type of waste includes packaging made from paper, glass, metals, plastics and wood. The new Directive updates and strengthens an earlier Directive from 1994. It aims to further reduce the negative environmental impacts created by the landfilling and incineration of packaging waste and by the production of virgin materials. So far only Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom have met the deadline to transpose the Directive into their own national laws.

The new Packaging Directive roughly doubles packaging recycling targets and strengthens the target for recovery. It also clarifies the definition of packaging and allows certain provisions to be implemented by voluntary agreements if they deliver what is legally required. The new targets need to be achieved between 2008 and 2015, depending on the Member State.

Currently, every European citizen is, directly or indirectly, responsible for the creation of close to half a kilogram (one pound) of packaging waste per day. Much of this packaging waste can be recycled. This avoids the environmental impacts related to the production of virgin materials and thus saves resources and avoids emissions to air and water during the production process. At the same time, less packaging waste is sent to final disposal. This does not only avoid further air and water emissions, but also reduces the need to create new landfills and incinerators.

Although many Member States already achieve the new recycling and recovery targets (and none of the previous 15 Member States missed any of the old targets in 2002), only Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom have so far informed the Commission that they have incorporated into their national laws the new Directive. Once the Member States have sent their legislation to the Commission, it checks it for compliance and can, if necessary, take appropriate further action. The Commission can open infringement procedures against Member States that do not meet transposition deadlines.

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