Packaging: Responsibilities for compliance

Who is responsible for compliance?

Under Article 2 of Directive 94/62/EC, the ‘responsible party’ must comply with the Directive when the packaged goods are placed on the market in any EU Member State. Under Article 3 of Directive 94/62/EC, responsible parties can include:

  • suppliers of packaging materials;
  • packaging producers and converters;
  • fillers and users;
  • importers; and
  • traders and distributors

The responsible party is obliged to ensure that all packaging covered by Directive 94/62/EC, complies with the:

  • essential requirements, which includes the:
    • manufacture and composition of the packaging; and
    • reusable and recoverable nature
  • marking requirements
  • collection and recycling requirements

Which types of packaging are covered?

Directive 94/62/EC covers all packaging placed on the market in EU Member States and all packaging waste, regardless of whether it is used or becomes waste at industrial, commercial, office, shop, service, household, or any other market level, and the type of packaging material used.

Packaging, including non-returnable packaging, is defined by Directive 94/62/EC as

all products made of any materials of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from raw materials to processed goods, from the producer to the consumer.

For the purposes of the Directive, packaging consists only of the following:

  • Sales packaging, i.e. packaging used to wrap an individual product which is sold to the final user;
  • Grouped (secondary) packaging, i.e. packaging used to group together a number of sales items which can be removed from the product without affecting its characteristics; and
  • Transport packaging, i.e. packaging used to protect products from the first producer through the supply chain to the retailer, such as crates, pallets, cardboard boxes and plastic shrink wrap. Transport packaging does not include road, rail and air containers.

Under Annex 1 of Directive 2004/12/EC, illustrative examples are listed to further interpret and define the term “packaging”, including:

  1. The item fulfils the definition of packaging in 94/62/EC without prejudice to other functions which the packaging might also perform, unless the item is an integral part of the product and it is necessary to contain, support or preserve that product throughout its lifetime and intended to be used and disposed of together. A sweet box is an example of packaging item and a tool box is an example of a non-packaging item.
  2. The item is designed to be filled at the point of sale and “disposable”. Thus paper or plastic carrier bags are classed as packaging (filled at point of sale).
  3. Packaging components are part of packaging to which they are attached, i.e. they are not independent packaging items. Examples include a sticky label attached to another packaging item or labels hung directly on or attached to the product. Ancillary items integrated into packaging or a component which performs a function in relation to packaging, are part of the packaging and are not separate packaging items. These include staples, tape and plastic sleeves (e.g. around bottles). Disposable items sold filled or designed to be filled at the point of sale are packaging provided they have a packaging function.

Commission Directive 2013/2/EU of 7 February 2013 sets out an expanded list of items to be regarded as packaging.