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Packaging and packaging waste



Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste


Directive 94/62/EC sets out the EU’s rules on managing packaging and packaging waste.

Directive 94/62/EC aims at:

  • harmonising national measures concerning the management of packaging and packaging waste; and
  • improving the quality of the environment by preventing and reducing the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment.

Directive (EU) 2018/852 is the last amendment of Directive 94/62/EC and contains updated measures designed to:

  • prevent the production of packaging waste, and
  • promote the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovering of packaging waste, instead of its final disposal, thus contributing to the transition towards a circular economy*.



The directive covers all packaging placed on the European market and all packaging waste, whether it is used or released at industrial, commercial, office, shop, service, household or any other level, regardless of the material used.


The directive as amended requires EU countries to take measures, such as national programmes, incentives through extended producer responsibility schemes and other economic instruments, to prevent the generation of packaging waste and to minimise the environmental impact of packaging.

EU countries should encourage the increase in the share of reusable packaging* put on the market and of systems to reuse packaging in an environmentally sound manner without compromising food safety or the safety of consumers. This may include:

  • deposit-return schemes
  • targets
  • economic incentives
  • minimum percentages of reusable packaging placed on the market for each type of packaging, etc.

EU countries must also take the necessary measures to meet recycling targets which vary depending on a packaging material. For this purpose, they must apply the new calculation rules for reporting on the new recycling targets to be achieved by 2025 and 2030.


By 31 December 2025, at least 65% by weight of all packaging waste must be recycled. The recycling targets per material are:

  • 50% of plastic
  • 25% of wood
  • 70% of ferrous metals
  • 50% of aluminium
  • 70% of glass, and
  • 75% of paper and cardboard.

By 31 December 2030, at least 70% by weight of all packaging waste must be recycled. This includes:

  • 55% of plastic
  • 30% of wood
  • 80% of ferrous metals
  • 60% of aluminium
  • 75% of glass and
  • 85% of paper and cardboard.

Essential requirements

EU countries must ensure that the packaging placed on the market meets the essential requirements contained in Annex II of the directive:

  • to limit the weight and volume of packaging to a minimum adequate amount in order to still meet the required level of safety, hygiene and acceptability for the packed product and for the consumers;
  • to minimise the content of hazardous substances and materials in the packaging material and its components;
  • to design reusable or recoverable packaging, which may include design for material or organic recycling as well as design for energy recovery.

The amended directive clarified the difference between packaging recoverable in the form of composting and biodegradable packaging waste and specified that oxo-degradable plastic packaging (plastic packaging with additives causing it to break down into microscopic particles and contributing to the presence of microplastics in the environment)is not considered as biodegradable packaging.

The European Commission is currently examining how to reinforce the essential requirements with the view to improving packaging design for reuse and promoting high-quality recycling, as well as strengthening the enforcement of the essential requirements.

Packaging recovery systems

EU countries should ensure that systems are set up to provide for the return and/or collection of used packaging and/or packaging waste, as well as the reuse or recovery including recycling of the packaging and/or packaging waste collected.

Producer responsibility

  • By end of 2024, EU countries should ensure that producer responsibility schemes* are established for all packaging. Producer responsibility schemes provide for the financing or financing and organisation of the return and/or collection of used packaging and/or packaging waste and its channelling to the most appropriate waste management option, as well as for reuse or recycling of the collected packaging and packaging waste.
  • These schemes will need to comply with minimum requirements established under Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC (see summary). The schemes should help incentivise packaging that is designed, produced and commercialised in a way that promotes packaging reuse or high quality recycling and minimise the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment.

Information systems and reporting

  • An implementing act, Decision 2005/270/EC sets out the formats, as well as the rules for the calculation, verification and reporting of data that must be provided by EU countries to the Commission each year to monitor the implementation of Directive 94/62/EC.
  • Decision (EU) 2019/665 amends Decision 2005/270/EC introducing new rules to bring it into line with the new rules in Directive 94/62/EC regarding the calculation of the attainment of the recycling targets relating to:
    • the possibility of taking into account — up to maximum 5% of the recycling target — reusable sales packaging (Article 5(2)),
    • the possibility of taking into account wooden packaging repaired for reuse (in Article 5(3)),
    • the calculation of the amount of metals in packaging waste separated from incineration bottom ash after incinerated (Article 6a),
    • composite packaging, which should no longer be reported per predominant material, but rather per material contained in the packaging, with a possible derogations for materials that constitute less than 5% of the total mass of the packaging unit.
  • The new calculation rules aim at making sure that only waste that enters a recycling operation or waste that has achieved end of waste status should be used for the calculation of the recycling target and, as a general rule, the measurement of waste should be at the input to the recycling operation.
  • the decision provides for an enhanced system of quality control on reported data (data directly from economic operators, use of electronic registries), thus ensuring a better traceability of reported data, including on waste exported for recycling to non-EU third countries.
  • Decision (EU) 2019/665 also introduces changes to the formats for reporting data pursuant to Article 12 of Directive 94/62/EC. The formats should take into account the information on reusable packaging placed on the market for the first time and on the number of rotations that packaging performs per year — essential to determining the share of reusable packaging compared to single use packaging. As reusable sales packaging may be taken into account in the context of the recycling targets, a distinction must be made between reusable sales packaging and other reusable packaging.


  • Directive 94/62/EC has applied since 31 December 1994 and had to become law in the EU countries by 30 June 1996.
  • Amending Directive (EU) 2018/852 has applied since 4 July 2018 and had to become law in the EU countries by 5 July 2020.


For more information, see:


Circular economy: a circular economy minimises resource input, waste, emissions and energy leakage. It can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse and recycling. It contrasts to a linear economy which extracts resources, uses them, then throws them away.
Reusable packaging: packaging which has been conceived, designed and marketed to carry out multiple trips in its lifetime by being refilled or reused for the same purpose for which it was conceived.
Extended Producer responsibility schemes: systems set up to ensure that producers bear the financial or financial and organisational responsibility for the management of waste stage of a product’s life cycle. By modulating the fees payable by producers for placing packaging on the market, EPR schemes allow producers and EU countries to encourage the design of products and their components which are more respective of the environment.


European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste (OJ L 365, 31.12.1994, pp. 10-23)

Successive amendments to Directive 94/62/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, pp. 3-30)

See consolidated version.

Commission Decision 2005/70/EC of 22 March 2005 establishing the formats relating to the database system pursuant to Directive 94/62/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on packaging and packaging waste (OJ L 86, 5.4.2005, pp. 6-12)

See consolidated version.

last update 15.06.2020