Packaging: Obligations for compliance

Packaging ‘Essential Requirements’

Under Article 9 of Directive 94/62/EC, all packaging placed on the EU market from 1997 must comply with “essential requirements” concerning the packaging’s:

  • manufacturing and composition;
  • reusable nature; and
  • recoverable nature

CEN developed a series of six standards which were harmonised under Directive 94/62/EC by the EC in February 2005. Compliance with the harmonized standards will give a presumption of conformity with the essential requirements in the Directive 94/62/EC.

EN 13427 – Management of the Standards
EN 13428 – Source reduction
EN 13429 – Reuse
EN 13430 – Material Recycling
EN 13431 – Energy Recovery
EN 13432 – Composting

Manufacturing and composition

Directive 94/62/EC stipulates that lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium concentration levels present in packaging and packaging components must not exceed certain limit values. The Directive provides the framework for a phased timescale to increasing these limit values over time. The deadlines for Member States to achieve these limit values are summarised in Table 1.

Table 1: Limit values of lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium in packaging and packaging components1 stipulated by Directive 94/62/EC
Limit value (ppm)
Timescale to be achieved
600June 30, 1998
250June 30, 1999
100June 30, 2001

1 The thresholds do not apply to packaging entirely made of lead crystal glass

Commission Decision 2001/171 allows glass packaging to exceed the 100 ppm heavy metal concentration level to be reached by June 30, 2001, if:

  1. The heavy metals are not “intentionally” introduced during the packaging manufacturing process;
  2. The packaging materials exceeds the concentration limits because of added recycled materials; and
  3. Where a 200 ppm threshold is exceeded, the manufacturer reports to the national authorities on
    • values measured;
    • measurement methods employed;
    • suspected sources for the heavy metals presence, and
    • measures taken to reduce the heavy metals’ concentration levels.

Commission Decision 1999/177 allows for derogation of plastic crates and pallets used in closed product loops from the heavy metals concentration limits, provided the following conditions are met:

  1. 80% of the weight of material used to make new crates and pallets must be derived from recycled old crates and pallets, with no more than 20% other material;
  2. No lead, cadmium, mercury or hexavalent chromium may be intentionally introduced during manufacture or distribution, and the heavy metals concentration limits shall only be exceeded as a result of the addition of recycled materials;
  3. New plastic crates or pallets containing the regulated metals must be marked in a ‘permanent and visible way’;
  4. They must be subject to an ‘appropriate deposit system’;
  5. They must be part of a controlled reuse system, with a system of inventory and record keeping which documents compliance with the Decision, including return rates, and accounts for all the reusable crates and pallets put into and removed from service;
  6. A return rate of not less than 90% must be achieved;
  7. All returned crates or pallets that are no longer reusable are to be disposed of either through a procedure specifically authorised by the authorities or by recycling into new crates or pallets; and
  8. The manufacturer or his authorised representative (or the person placing the product on the Community market) must draw up an annual declaration of conformity, including an annual report showing how the conditions of the Decision have been met, and must keep this documentation for inspection on request for at least 4 years.

Reusable and recoverable nature

The essential requirements of packaging placed on the market relating to its reusability and recoverability are detailed in Annex II of Directive 94/62/EC which is included below.

Annex II of Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste

Essential Requirements on the composition and the reusable and recoverable, including recyclable, nature of packaging

  • Requirements specific to the manufacturing and composition of packaging
    • Packaging shall be so manufactured that the packaging volume and weight be limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain the necessary level of safety, hygiene and acceptance for the packed product and for the consumer.
    • Packaging shall be designed, produced and commercialised in such a way as to permit its reuse or recovery, including recycling, and to minimize its impact on the environment when packaging waste or residues from packaging waste management operations are disposed of.
    • Packaging shall be so manufactured that the presence of noxious and other hazardous substances and materials as constituents of the packaging material or of any of the packaging components is minimized with regard to their presence in emissions, ash or leachate when packaging or residues from management operations or packaging waste are incinerated or landfilled.
  • Requirements specific to the reusable nature of packaging. The following requirements must be simultaneously satisfied:
    • the physical properties and characteristics of the packaging shall enable a number of trips or rotations in normally predictable conditions of use,
    • possibility of processing the used packaging in order to meet health and safety requirements for the workforce,
    • fulfil the requirements specific to recoverable packaging when the packaging is no longer reused and thus becomes waste.
  • Requirements specific to the recoverable nature of packaging
    • Packaging recoverable in the form of material recycling. Packaging must be manufactured in such a way as to enable the recycling of a certain percentage by weight of the materials used into the manufacture of marketable products, in compliance with current standards in the Community. The establishment of this percentage may vary, depending on the type of material of which the packaging is composed.
    • Packaging recoverable in the form of energy recovery. Packaging waste processed for the purpose of energy recovery shall have a minimum inferior calorific value to allow optimisation of energy recovery.
    • Packaging recoverable in the form of composting. Packaging waste processed for the purpose of composting shall be of such a biodegradable nature that it should not hinder the separate collection and the composting process or activity into which it is introduced.
    • Biodegradable packaging. Biodegradable packaging waste shall be of such a nature that it is capable of undergoing physical, chemical, thermal or biological decomposition such that most of the finished compost ultimately decomposes into carbon dioxide, biomass and water.

Marking requirements

The Directive leaves it up to individual Member Sates to decide whether packaging should be marked to indicate what materials it is made of. However, if a Member State decides to use a material identification system, then it should be the one described in the Commission Decision 97/129 which establishes identification numbering and abbreviations for packaging materials, i.e. (1) plastics, (2) paper and fiberboard, (3) metals, (4) wood, (5) textiles, (6) glass, and (7) composites.

Directive 94/62/EC states that:

‘to facilitate collection, reuse and recovery including recycling, the packaging shall indicate for purposes of its identification and classification by the industry concerned the nature of the packaging material(s) used on the basis of Commission Decision 97/129/EC.’

This is to ensure that if a Member State requires packaging to be marked, all Member Stsets should use the same marking system. However, the Decision 97/129 states that material identification is optional, and lays down the procedures for any change to that status. Directive 2004/12/EC confirms that material identification is optional, rather than suggesting that material identification will become mandatory. This formula is legally unsatisfactory, and it is currently being re-examined within the Commission.

Green Dot

The Green Dot is a trademark which shows that a company has joined a packaging compliance scheme in each of the countries in which the products are sold. Use of the Green Dot on packaging for business products (i.e. non-household products) is not recommended because:

  1. In many countries (e.g. Germany) the Green Dot symbol is only applicable to packaging used on household products.
  2. If a company uses the Green Dot on all of its packaging then this means that an obligated party has joined a packaging compliance scheme in each of the relevant countries in which the products are sold (assuming that the use of the Green Dot is permitted for B2B products in that country).

Collection and recovery requirements

Article 7 of Directive 94/62/EC requires Member States to ensure that systems are set up for the return and/or collection of packaging waste from the consumer, other final user, or from the waste stream, and that the collected packaging waste is reused or recovered, including materials recycling. Member States are free to design their own collection and recovery systems and use economic instruments. However national measures may not discriminate between domestic and foreign producers and must be proportional to the protection of the environment.

Directive 94/62/EC set minimum recovery and recycling targets based on the weight of all packaging waste placed on the Member State market, which each Member State had to achieve by 30 June 2001. Directive 2004/12/EC set new recovery and recycling targets that each Member State must achieve by 31 December 2008, Table 2.

Table 2: Packaging Recovery and Recycling Targets (by weight placed on the market)
Directive Recovery / Incineration Target Recycling Target Material Specific Recycling Recycling Target Timescale to be achieved
94/62/EC 50-65% 25-45% Each packaging material placed on market Min. 15% June 30, 2001 1
2004/12/EC 60% 55-80% Glass 60% December 31, 2008 2,3
Metal 50%
Plastics 22.5%
Wood 15%
Paper / Board 60%
1 Derogation granted to Greece, Ireland and Portugal to achieve targets by 31 December 2005
2 Derogation granted to Greece, Ireland and Portugal to achieve targets by 31 December 2011
3 Deadline for targets delayed for Accession Member States until 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015 depending on the acceding Member State in question.

Directive 94/62/EC stipulates that Member States must ensure that packaging users, including consumers, are able to obtain necessary information on:

  • return, collection and recovery systems available to them;
  • their role in contributing to packaging and packaging waste’s reuse, recovery and recycling;
  • packaging marking’s meaning; and
  • measures adopted to prevent packaging waste.

Article 11 of the Waste Framework Directive further stipulates package waste requirements for EU Member States in stating that by 2015, separate collection shall be set up for at least the following; paper, metal, plastic and glass provided this is 'technically, environmentally and economically practicable'.