EU: Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

An Expert's View about Business Support Services in Germany

Posted on: 23 Jun 2012

In the European Union, packaging design and recycling is regulated by Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste (PPWD). The Directive aims to prevent and reduce the environmental impact of packaging, and to ensure the functioning of the internal market so as to avoid obstacles to trade and distortions of competition. U.S. exporters to the EU need to ensure that their packaging complies with the Directive and related national laws. This report outlines packaging waste management responsibilities and packaging design requirements for the EU and provides useful links to country-specific information.
Is your packaging compliant for the EU?

All exporters to the EU need to be aware of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) since it covers all types of packaging (household, industrial and commercial), regardless of the packaging material used (paper, board, glass, plastic, wood, metals); and all packaging waste.

The Directive establishes criteria for the definition of packaging (Article 3) and gives a list of examples of what is considered packaging under EU law (Annex I). For example, plastic wrap around a CD case or labels hung directly on, or attached to, a product are considered packaging and have to meet requirements under the Directive.

The PPWD is based on two main requirements: packaging design and packaging waste management.

A. Packaging Design

Packaging for Europe must be environmentally friendly

Restrictions on heavy metals:
The Directive sets limits relating to the presence of heavy metals in packaging. These are often found in inks, dyes, adhesives and other additives used in packaging. Article 11 of the PPWD specifies the concentration levels of heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium) allowed in packaging. They must not exceed 100 ppm. The concentration limits do not apply to packaging made entirely of lead crystal glass. A derogation is also in place for plastic crates and plastic pallets. For more information, see the Commission webpage:

Essential requirements for packaging:
The Directive lays down essential requirements for the design of packaging. These are detailed in article 9 and annex II of the Directive: Requirements specific to the manufacturing and composition of packaging:
• Packaging weight and volume should be minimized to the amount needed for safety and acceptance of the packed product.
• Packaging should be suitable for reuse or recovery, including recycling, incineration with energy recovery or composting, and have a minimal impact on the environment when packaging waste is disposed of.
• Packaging should be manufactured so that presence of noxious substances is minimized.

Requirements specific to the reusable nature of packaging:
• Requirements related to the number of uses, health and safety of the workforce and the requirement to recover packaging when it is no longer reused and becomes waste.

Requirements specific to the recoverable nature of packaging:
• Requirements cover packaging recoverable in the form of material recycling, energy recovery, composting and biodegradable packaging.

EN 13431: Requirements for packaging recoverable in the form of energy recovery, including specification of minimum inferior calorific value
EN 13432: Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation.
Manufacturers should be aware that new CEN standards are developed as the Commission issues new mandates. Revisions of existing standards take place every 5 years. European Harmonized Standards can be purchased from the national members of CEN at

It should be noted that the standards are voluntary and represent only one means of demonstrating conformity with the essential requirements. There is no legal obligation to use European standards. It is the easiest option but other means may be acceptable to demonstrate compliance.

• Option 2: Use national packaging standards
Companies may choose to use national programs, however, unlike European Harmonized Standards, use of national standards does not give “presumption of conformity” with the essential requirements of the PPWD. National standards can be found on national standards organization websites through this gateway:

• Option 3: Self-declare conformity
It is possible for companies to self-declare conformity with the essential requirements of the directive. To help businesses self-declare conformity, Europen, the European Organization for Packaging and the Environment, produced a guide on how to assess compliance of packaging with the PPWD. This guide can be downloaded from the Europen website:
Whatever the option chosen for proving compliance, documentation (technical file) must be made available for inspection by national authorities upon request.

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Posted: 23 June 2012

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