European Packaging Waste Systems at Glance

This article resumes some packaging waste managemetn systems across Euroe

Context: European Parliament and Council Directive EU 2018/852/EU harmonises national measures on packaging and waste management to prevent and reduce environmental impact,  harmonises national measures on the management of packaging and packaging waste to ensure the functioning of the internal market and prevent the emergence of barriers to trade, as well as distortions and restrictions on competition in the EC. It also covers all packaging placed in Europe, it is aimed at material and packaging manufacturers and packaging users. It also sets out the principles of sound management, namely the polluter pays principle and shared responsibility.  The standard is based on reuse, recycling, and recovery of waste, as well as on the reduction of production and dangerousness of the same: disposal is a marginal activity, to be carried out only as a result of indispensable technical reasons and not for economic reasons.  The Directive covers all packaging, i.e. “all products composed of materials of any kind, used to contain and protect certain goods, from raw materials to finished products, to allow their handling and delivery from the producer to the consumer or user, and to ensure their presentation.  Packaging means:

  • sales packaging or primary packaging, i.e., packaging designed in such a way as to constitute a sales unit for the end-user or consumer at the point of sale.
  • multiple packaging or secondary packaging, i.e., packaging designed to constitute at the point of sale, the grouping of a certain number of sales units irrespective of whether it is sold as such to the end user or consumer, or serves only to facilitate the replenishment of shelves at the point of sale.
  • transport packaging or tertiary packaging, i.e., packaging designed to facilitate the handling and transport of a number of sales units or multiple packages in order to avoid their handling and transport-related damage.


Subsequently, the main peculiarities of the systems of the various countries are illustrated at a schematic level.

Table 1: Waste management systems of the main European countries

Developing countries

Main features


Dual systems in competition with each other, with the recent introduction of a central control and coordination body


Environmental contribution modulated on the basis of eco-design of packaging, certified by a third party.

United Kingdom

Recycling systems based on recycling certificate (PNR) trading mechanism managed by a central body


EPR system with contribution management, monitoring of the prevention system entrusted to separate bodies


Coexistence of EPR body and deposit systems with a system of taxation on users


EPR system flanked by a trading platform for the exchange of waste from the industrial circuit


Security deposit system coordinated centrally by a monopoly non-profit company


Environmental contribution to co-finance the separate collection, recycling and recovery of materials.


The CONAI System guarantees compliance with the principle of extended producer responsibility, sharing the CONAI Environmental Contribution (CAC) between producers and users.


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