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Packaging waste

EU rules on packaging and packaging waste, including design and waste management.


EU rules on packaging and packaging waste cover both packaging design and packaging waste management. They aim to deal with the increasing quantities of packaging waste, which cause environmental problems. They also aim to remove barriers in the internal market – caused by EU countries adopting different rules on packaging design. 

Although the implementation of these rules has been considered a success, the amount of packaging waste in the EU is still increasing, and too many of our finite resources are being wasted without being recirculated into the economy.


EU rules on packaging cover all types of packaging and packaging waste placed on the European market. This means all materials, and packaging including industrial, commercial, household and other sectors.

These rules regulate what kind of packaging can be placed on the EU market, as well as packaging waste management and packaging waste prevention measures. All packaging placed on the EU market has to comply with essential requirements related to its manufacturing, composition, and reusable or recoverable nature. 

The EU has revised and amended its laws on packaging several times. These amendments include 

  • amending Annex I with a list of illustrative examples of packaging
  • adding sustainable consumption reduction measures for plastic carrier bags in 2015
  • setting additional waste prevention and reuse obligations for EU countries, and raising recycling targets on packaging waste
  • providing for mandatory setting up of packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes as part of the legislative proposals adopted under the circular economy package in 2018


The Packaging Directive aims to

  • harmonise national measures on packaging and the management of packaging waste
  • provide a high level of environmental protection
  • ensure the good functioning of the internal market

The latest amendment to the Directive contains updated measures 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

Among other rules, by end of 2024, EU countries should ensure that producer responsibility schemes are established for all packaging. The Directive also sets the following specific targets for recycling. 

  Current targets (%) By 2025 (%) By 2030 (%)
All packaging 55 65 70
Plastic 25 50 55
Wood 15 25 30
Ferrous metals 50 (incl. Al) 70 80
Aluminium - 50 60
Glass 60 70 75
Paper and cardboard 60 75 85


Secondary law

Communication on beverage packaging, deposit systems and free movement of goods

Marking and identification

Data and reporting


Notification of draft measures Member States intend to implement within the framework of the Packaging Directive

Case law

See case law of the European Court of Justice with relevance to packaging and packaging waste.


On 30 November 2022, the Commission proposed to revise the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. This review contributes to reaching the objective of the European Green Deal and the new circular economy action plan to ensure that “all packaging on the EU market is reusable or recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030”. It will also contribute to the commitment of the 2018 Plastics Strategy to ensure that by 2030 all plastics packaging placed on the market can be reused or recycled in a cost-effective manner”.

This revision aims to

  • prevent the generation of packaging waste, reducing it in quantity, and promoting reuse and refill
  • ensure that all packaging on the EU market will be recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030
  • increase the use of recycled plastics in packaging, thus enabling more high quality (“closed loop”) recycling and substituting virgin materials

 The key measures to bring about change on the ground include

  • targets for packaging waste reduction at Member State level, and mandatory reuse targets for economic operators for selected packaging groups
  • restricting over-packaging and certain forms of unnecessary packaging, and supporting reuse and refill systems
  • establishing criteria for design for recycling to be applied to all packaging
  • minimum inclusion rates for recycled content in plastic packaging
  • mandatory deposit return systems for plastic bottles and aluminum cans
  • harmonised labelling of packaging and waste bins to facilitate correct consumer disposal of packaging waste

View the proposal and find out more in the press materials and factsheet.

More information on the review process

The Inception Impact Assessment was published on 11 June 2020 with a feedback period up to 6 August. A Study on the Effectiveness of the essential requirements for packaging and packaging waste and proposals for their reinforcement was completed in early 2020. In addition to targeted stakeholder consultations and interviews as well as several workshops, an open public consultation was held from September 2020 to 6 January 2021 and concluded with almost 500 responses from general public and stakeholders.


Information about the implementation of the Packaging Directive, including implementation reports, harmonized standards for packaging, monitoring and evaluation.

Implementation of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive


Key dates related to EU policy on packaging

  1. 30 November 2022
    Commission adopted revision of EU rules on Packaging and Packaging Waste
  2. 30 September 20 - 6 January 21
    Open public consultation on the review of requirements for packaging and other measures to prevent packaging waste
  3. 30 May 2018
    Packaging Directive amended to reinforce prevention and to promote reuse and recycling of packaging waste
  4. 29 April 2015
    Packaging Directive amended to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags
  5. 20 December 1994
    Packaging Directive enters into force


You can also find out more about packaging waste and waste management on the websites of the Environmental Data Centre on Waste, and the European Environmental Agency.

Related links

Main law: Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

Entry into force: 31 December 1994

Related topics: Circular economy Plastics Plastic bags

Related strategies: Circular economy action plan Plastics Strategy Single-use plastics Directive

Related Commission priorities: European Green Deal


For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.