The EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive
The European Union, with the adoption of its Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, 94/62/EC as amended by 2004/12/EC, is legislating for more effective recovery of used packaging and for the reduction of the impact of packaging on the environment.
a) More effective recovery
Recovery of PET packaging falls under the requirements for recovery and is classed together with other plastic materials in the targets laid down in directive 2004/12/EC:
Overall recovery: minimum 60% of packaging waste Overall recycling of packaging waste (including feedstock recycling): between 55% and 80% Minimum recycling differentiated by material, for plastics 22.5% (including only what is recycled back to plastics)
Member States must meet these targets by 2008, with the exception of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and the accession countries, which are allowed to delay their attainment.
b) Minimisation of the environmental impact
To be allowed on the market, packaging articles must comply with the following essential requirements:
The content of heavy metals (Cd, CrVI, Hg, and Pb) must be lower than 100 ppm. The use of substances dangerous for the environment must be minimised. The articles must be recoverable by material recycling, organic recycling, and/or energy recovery (at least one of the three). They must be suitable for reuse (when relevant and claimed). The volume or weight of the packaging article must be limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain the necessary level of safety, hygiene, and consumer acceptance.
c) Status of PET
PET is widely recycled as a material, making a large contribution to the recycling targets required for plastics by the EU directive. When material recycling is not feasible, PET can be incinerated with energy recovery. Moreover, PET usually does not contain heavy metals and/or substances dangerous for the environment.
The introduction of the PET bottle has created a number of dilemmas, which are currently being resolved slowly by a mixture of political and commercial considerations. The commercial advantages are well understood. However, the traditional use of refillable glass in many northern European countries has resisted the widespread use of the single use PET container that is more prevalent in southern Europe. A refillable PET bottle has been developed and is now used widely in the Nordic countries, Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. The pursuit of commercial freedom within Europe is a central stone of the EU trade policy, but concerns around unsatisfactory disposal schemes for single use PET containers need to be resolved to the satisfaction of the relevant authorities before complete harmonisation of distribution systems is achieved. In Germany, Denmark, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands and Sweden all beverage containers, single use and refillable, are distributed and collected via a mandatory deposit refund system. Switzerland manages an advanced disposal fee to fund a voluntary collection scheme. The majority of the other European countries are including the collection of PET containers in more comprehensive schemes for separate collection of packaging waste set up to comply with the EU directive.
Recycling of PET containers
PET container recycling is a healthy industry and growing very steadily. Even if the PET consumption rate will follow predictions at around 2.5 to 3.0 million tonnes beyond the year 2007, meeting the EU recycling targets should not be a challenge to the current growth in recycling of approximately 10% pa. Regular information on recovery and recycling of PET can be obtained from PETCORE (www.petcore.org), a European organisation constituted solely to facilitate the recycling of PET containers. Similar organisations are operating on other continents as NAPCOR (www.napcor.com) in the US and the Council for PET Bottle Recycling...