Packaging Waste

1 - What is Packaging?

Packaging is defined as “any product, composed of materials of any nature, used to contain certain goods, from raw materials to finished products, to protect them, to allow their handling and their delivery from the producer to the consumer or user, to ensure their presentation, as well as disposable items used for the same purpose”. The reference legislation on packaging is Legislative Decree 152/2006 (Consolidated Environmental Act implementing Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste) as amended by Legislative Decree 116/2020.

Primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

According to the definition in Legislative Decree 152/2006, sales packaging or primary packaging is that which is “designed in such a way as to constitute at the point of sale a sales unit for the end user or the consumer”.

Collective packaging or secondary packaging is that which is “designed so as to constitute at the point of sale a group of a certain number of sales units, whether sold as such to the end user or to the consumer, or whether it serves only to garnish the displays at the point of sale; it can be removed from the product without modifying its characteristics”.

Transport packaging or tertiary packaging is that which is “designed to facilitate the handling and transport of a number of sales units or collective packaging for avoiding their physical handling and transport damage. Transport packaging does not include road, rail, sea and air transport containers”.

According to the provisions of Article 219(5) of Legislative Decree 152/2006, as amended by Legislative Decree 116/2020 (Article 3(3) letter c) “All packaging must be appropriately labelled in accordance with the methods set out in applicable UNI technical standards and in accordance with the decisions adopted by the European Commission, in order to facilitate the collection, re-use, recovery and recycling of packaging, and to provide consumers with accurate information on the final destinations of packaging”.

Download our Guidelines for the environmental labelling of Packaging.

Packaging becomes waste when the holder decides to discard it or has the intention or obligation to discard it.

The regulations define recycling as “any recovery operation through which waste materials are re-processed into products, materials or substances for their original or other purposes”.

Thanks to recycling it is possible:

  1. limit the use of landfills and therefore reduce the waste to be disposed of in them;
  2. recover materials without resorting to the extraction of virgin raw materials;
  3. avoid the release of substances harmful to the environment and human health.

In order to allow recycling, a separate collection and proper treatment are required.

More than 79 million tons of Packaging Waste is generated each year in Europe. In Italy, in 2020, Packaging released for consumption amounted to 13.1 million tons.

Directive (EU) 2018/852 provides that:

By 31 December 2025, at least 65pc by weight of all packaging waste will have to be recycled. The recycling targets for each material are:

  • 50pc for plastics;
  • 25pc for wood;
  • 70pc for ferrous metals;
  • 50pc for aluminium;
  • 70pc for glass;
  • 75pc for paper and cardboard.

By 31 December 2030, at least 70pc by weight of all packaging waste will have to be recycled. The recycling targets for each material are:

  • 55pc for plastic;
  • 30pc for wood;
  • 80pc for ferrous metals;
  • 60pc for aluminium;
  • 75pc for glass;
  • 85pc for paper and cardboard.