EU packaging waste mountain "shrinking"

Data from six countries suggests 30% fall in packaging going to final disposal over ten years

The volume of waste packaging going to landfill in EU countries probably fell by about 30% during the 1990s, according to statistics released this week by European packaging industry association Europen. The organisation implicitly criticised unnamed "EU officials" for suggesting that there was a "rising mountain" of packaging waste. Whatever the next step in EU packaging waste policy, it said, this should not be based on the idea that the problem was growing.

Reliable statistics on trends in packaging consumption and waste are notoriously thin on the ground. Before the European Commission delayed plans to revise the 1994 EU packaging directive (ENDS Daily 7 June), Europen and other packaging industry organisations argued repeatedly that there was too little data to justify changes at this stage (ENDS Daily 26 January).

Summarising a paper to be published shortly by the Association for Sustainable Use and Recovery of Resources in Europe (Assurre), Europen said that all the available data pointed to the same trend: a stabilisation of packaging consumption and a strong decrease in packaging going to final disposal in waste landfills.

While acknowledging that large gaps remained in Assure's data, Europen said that the six countries covered represented over half of packaging waste arising in the EU in 1997 and could therefore be considered a representative sample.

What the figures meant, Europen added, was that the "so-called mountain of packaging waste is continuously shrinking and the packaging chain has already achieved the sustainable target of an absolute decoupling of packaging waste disposal from economic growth".

Follow Up:
Europen, tel: +32 2 736 3600, and press release.

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