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25. January 2021

European Packaging Directive requires concerted action


With the Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive (European Directive on packaging and packaging waste) the EU has set its member states ambitious targets. By 2025, each of them must introduce a comprehensive EPR system (extended producer responsibility) for packaging from the private and industrial areas. By 2030, all plastic packaging brought into circulation in the EU should be reusable or recyclable. In addition, the previous recycling target has been doubled to 50 per cent by 2025 and raised again to 55 per cent by 2030. In the view of the EU Commission this is the only way to realise sustainable closed loop recycling management which can make its contribution to the aim of reaching climate neutrality.

Plastic packaging – a mainstay and growing demand

The many member states face tough challenges in view of the tightened packaging directive. In addition, a prohibition came into force in January 2021 that bars most shipments of plastic waste abroad. Many countries, such as China, Turkey and India, have been fighting back against imports of European waste for a few years. Long-term, this healthy defence mechanism could have thoroughly positive effects on the European recycling industry, which previously suffered from foreign competition. And the prohibition is currently increasing the pressure on the EU to quickly build up its recycling capacities in the member states. Because only 40 per cent of plastic packaging in the EU is recycled at present and the majority is still incinerated or sent to landfill. For this reason, a landfill prohibition – as already applies in 8 EU member states and in Switzerland and Norway – is desirable. The COVID-19 pandemic has created new hygiene needs – demand for articles made of plastic, such as masks, protective clothing and packaging, has rocketed. This development confirms the continued leading role of plastics in the European economy, simultaneously signalling, however, that there is still room for improvement in matters concerning closed loop recycling management.

Progress through certified recycling capability

In the opinion of the European Court of Auditors a concerted approach taken by all member states is essential to ensure the EU meets its sustainability targets in the next 10 years. The top priority is reducing (excess) packaging and packaging waste. At the same time, the design of packaging must ensure it can be reused and recycled.

“Traffic light system” for packaging: What does “recyclable” mean?

By 2030, all packaging should be assigned to a positive/negative list as per the “Design for Recycling” directive:

  • (red) Negative list with incompatible or problematic elements that prevent recycling
  • (orange) Interim stage for packaging that does not meet all the conditions of the positive list
       but also that has none of the features on the negative list
  • (green) Positive list for types of packaging that are approved for recycling on the market

The RIGK subsidiary plastship already analyses and certifies the recycling capability of plastic packaging now. With its RecyClass method the company is counting on a single EU-wide procedure and thus on a pan-European standard. plastship evaluates packaging according to two viewpoints: The Design for Recycling Assessment analyses the recycling capability class (A bis F), and the Recyclability Rate Assessment additionally measures the recycling-capable weight proportion as a percentage. This enables plastics processors and trademark owners to set the course for the sustainability of their packaging as early as the design phase – a lead that will pay off. Because the earlier they meet the requirements of the European packaging directive, the lower the risk of being hit with recycling fees.

Andreas Bastian, plastship GmbH
Auf der Lind 10, 65529 Waldems
Phone: +49 6126 58980-12, Mobile: +49 151 42101053
Email: bastian(at);