EU packaging waste rises almost 80 million tonnes in a decade, says Eurostat

Eurostat, the data analysis wing of the European Commission, recently published statistics on packaging waste in the 27 European Union (EU) Member States, as well as some non-member countries. The report summarises the developments between 2009-2019, the period for which official reporting on packaging waste for all EU Member States was implemented.

PackagingThe report sets the total volume of packaging waste generated in 2019 at 79.3 million tonnes – an increase of 2.4 per cent compared to the previous year. Eurostat attributes this rise to an increase in packaging made from glass and plastic, which saw a 4.7 and 3.6 per cent increase 2018-2019, respectively.

Over the ten year period, paper and cardboard accounted for the majority of packaging waste material generated, contributing 32.2 million tonnes to the total packaging waste generated in 2019, the waste stream growing by 23.3 per cent since 2009. The report also notes that plastic packaging material reached a total of 15.4 million tonnes, increasing by 25.8 per cent over the same period. Glass had a volume of 15.2 million tonnes, followed by wood packaging (12.4 million tonnes), and metal packaging (4 million tonnes).

Eurostat’s findings also observe an increase of 2.4, 1.5, and 0.3 per cent per inhabitant in packaging waste generation, recovery, and recycling, respectively. Between 2009-2019, the amount of packaging waste generated per inhabitant substantially increased by 18.3 per cent, with recycling and recovery volumes increasing even more over the same period, by 22.6 and 26 per cent, respectively.

The report highlighted the progress of EU member states towards the targets set out in Article Six of the Packaging Waste Directive. The Directive requires member states to achieve a 60 per cent recovery rate (including waste incineration), a minimum 55 per cent recycling rate for packaging waste, a 60 per cent minimum recycling rate for glass, paper, and cardboard, as well as recycling rates of 50, 22.5, and 15 per cent for metals, plastics, and wood, respectively.

The recycling rate target of 55 per cent was met by all member states, except Croatia, Hungary, and Malta – these states were joined by Poland in failing to meet recovery targets. Additionally, Malta alone failed to meet plastic packaging recycling targets.

Finland was recorded as having the highest recovery rate of 115.1 per cent, the country also recording the highest rate of energy recovery from packaging waste (46.6 per cent). The major form of recovery in all countries, however, was found to be recycling.