Packaging and the Environment- legislative context

Packaging waste - European Council Directive 94/62/EC & revised 2004/12/EC

  • The primary objective of the Directives is to harmonise the management of packaging wastes impact on the environment across member Countries. This means the recovery, reuse and recycling processes. Mandatory targets have been set, in the UK, for paper & board these rise to 68.5% by 2010 - this is already been achieved (plastic target is 25.5%!). In the UK, this Directive was implemented by two different pieces of legislation –

Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007

  • This obligates certain businesses (more than 50 tonnes of packaging and £2m turnover) to register with the relevant government agencies (different for England, Scotland & Northern Ireland) or a ‘compliance scheme’ (such as Valpak) to recover and recycle specified tonnages of packaging waste and to certify that this has been achieved.
  • Evidence that packaging waste has been collected and delivered to a reprocessor is either the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) or Packaging Export Recovery Note (PERN). These are then bought and sold in an open market.

Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003

  • This requires that packaging placed on the market must comply with specific Essential Requirements – Weight and volume must be reduced to the minimum necessary for safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance. Hazardous substances are minimised [some specifics on heavy metals]. Must be suitable for either recycling or energy/organic recovery. If reuse is claimed then it must also be suitable for either of these as well.
  • The regulations can be difficult to enforce given their ambiguity, but are legal requirements nonetheless. In the UK, Trading Standards are responsible for enforcement and they have raised awareness and triggered a degree of self-policing. Focus on implementation is growing. Also, it is recognised that commercial cost pressures are a main driver to packaging minimisation.

Landfill Directive – ( and (

  • Represents a step change in the way waste is disposed of in the UK and will help drive waste up the hierarchy through minimisation and increased levels of re-use, recycling and energy recovery. It sets demanding targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal landfill through the ‘Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme’. Allowances are traded between Local Authorities to allow burden sharing to meet the targets.

Carbon (CO2) - Kyoto Protocol (

  • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiated a structure setting quantitive national emissions (of six greenhouse gases) limits for 2008-2012 from a base of 1990. The EU target is –8%, the UK is –12.5% but with an additional ‘goal’ of –20% of CO2 and 60% by 2050 (again all compared to 1990 levels).
  • Countries can - offset limits against any domestic forestry absorption and trade ‘emission credits’ internationally.

Climate Change Act 2008 - (

  • Aims of the act are to improve carbon management and help the transition to a low carbon economy as well as demonstrating strong UK leadership internationally. The key provisions are – Legally binding targets and ‘carbon budgeting’ Create a Committee on Climate Change – an independent advisory body ( Set up emissions trading schemes and regularly review progress.

Climate Change Levy 2001

  • Set up to encourage businesses and public sector to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through a price based system. There are specific levies for gas, coal, electricity and LPG that now rise with inflation.
  • For energy intensive business (like paper manufacture) Climate Change Agreements (CCA’s) offer up to 80% reduction on the levies providing that agreed CO2 reductions are made.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) - (

  • A key EU policy to help meet the Kyoto targets. A trading scheme covering heavy energy users including pulp and paper.

Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) - (2010)(

  • A central part of the UK’s strategy for controlling CO2 emissions not already covered by the CCA and EU ETS.
  • This is an emissions trading scheme affecting ca. 20,000 organisations. A price is placed on carbon emissions and organisations purchase allowances each year. The overall emissions reduction is achieved by means of a cap on the total allowances, meaning that participants have to reduce or trade their emissions to avoid cost penalties.
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