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The EU Circular Economy Package tightens recycling targets for packaging waste

On 17 December 2017, the EU Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission reached an agreement on the amendment of six waste-related directives. The directives are likely to come into effect in summer 2018, and their content will be further clarified. What is important from the point of view of the packaging industry is that recycling targets for packaging waste will be tighter.

Recycling targets for packaging will be significantly higher than they are at the moment. At the same time, the recycling rate calculation method will be amended so that any material rejected in the various phases of the recycling process will be deducted from the total volume of recycled waste. In practice, the change in the calculation method will further tighten the recycling targets. The new targets will require a significant increase in the recycling rate of plastic and wooden packaging in particular. The first new targets will be applicable in 2025.

Recycling targets for packaging waste according to the amendments to the EU directive:

Packaging waste Current target

New target


New target

All packaging 55 65 70
Plastic 22.5 50 55
Wood 15 25 30
Ferrous metal 50 70 80
Aluminium   50 60
Glass 60 70 75
Paper and cardboard 60 75 85

It is possible to deviate by 15 percentage points either from one target or divided between two targets; however, the recycling rate must not fall below 30%, and for glass and paper/cardboard, below 60% (i.e. below the 2008 target). The overall recycling target is non-negotiable.

In addition to tightening recycling targets, decisions that are important for packaging producers include:

  • Making extended producer responsibility schemes mandatory for packaging from 2025.
  • Recycling targets for packaging waste will not include the preparation of packaging waste for reuse, but repair of wooden pallets can be included in the targets.
  • The reuse of consumer packaging can only account for up to 5% of the recycling target for packaging waste; this is calculated from the volume of reused packaging that is placed on the market for the first time.
  • The minimum standards of producer responsibility stipulate that a producer is fully responsible for the cost; however, an exception can be made in terms of the current national producer responsibility schemes provided that the producer bears at least half of the waste management costs. In new schemes, the producer's share of the costs is 80%.
  • The calculation method for recycling targets according to the Council proposal: materials rejected in the previous phases of the handling process (that are not recycled) will not be counted in the total volume of recycled waste, the volume of waste is primarily calculated from the input up until the final recycling process but could, if necessary, be calculated after the sorting plant process, in which case the amount of material rejected in later handling phases would need to be deducted; the use of average loss rates would be acceptable.

For more information, please contact:

Juha-Heikki Tanskanen
CEO, Finnish Packaging Recycling RINKI Ltd
Tel. +358 400 814 243, juha-heikki.tanskanen@rinkiin.fi

Press release by the Ministry of the Environment (in Finnish): Jätedirektiiveistä alustava sopu EU:ssa ─ uusia kunnianhimoisia kierrätystavoitteita jätteille