EU Directive 96/64

The first Directive of the European Parliament and the Council of 20 December 1994 (94/62/EG) on packaging and packaging waste entered into force in 1994. Its aim is to reduce the total amount of packaging and its impact on the environment. According to the directive, the person placing the packaging on the market is responsible for compliance with the regulation in any of the EU nations. The specifications cover a multitude of packaging materials (paper, cardboard, glass, plastic & metal), and invoke measures on which materials should be avoided in the production of new packaging through recirculation, recycling and collection.

Responsibility of the Producer

The regulation concerns a strategy of environmental policy also known as “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR). Accordingly, the producer and the distributer must pay the environmental costs accrued over the entire life-cycle of their products. This includes, for example, meeting the costs for collection, sorting, and utilisation of packaging.

Through appropriate pricing policy an appeal is created, encouraging the design of environmentally friendly products and packaging. For instance, much higher costs are incurred for non-recyclable materials than for reusable packaging.

The obligations related to the responsibility of the producer can be complied through participation in a return scheme—an option which most producers decide to take.

Take-back Scheme

Take-back, collection and utilisation schemes are logistic schemes for the recovery of products (or parts of them) after usage.

Commonly known are return schemes for packaging materials, waste electrical equipment, and batteries. Returning bottles and batteries, but also the collection of a used washing machine, is familiar to most consumers. Collected products will either be for reused (returnable bottles, euro-pallet), refurbished (e.g. IT hardware), recycled (e.g. washing machines) or professionally disposed(batteries, waste oil).

Take-back schemes prevalently are ecological, but sometimes also economical strategies, which are used for the compliance to extended producer’s responsibility (EPR).

Who is obliged?

Placer on the Market

Placer on the market is every party who places a product on the market for the first time. Usually, it concerns bottlers or those who pack goods, however, it can also apply to retailers which are selling own brand products. When packaged goods are imported from abroad, the party responsible for the goods at the point of border crossing, becomes subject to a licence.

Turnover and Material Quantity Limits

In several countries, so-called turnover and material quantity limits apply, mainly with the motivation to relieve small businesses up from bureaucratic hurdles. Organisations that fall short of the set limits for turnover or material quantity, benefit from simplified processes. For instance, they are either freed up from licensing obligations, report their quantities at less regular intervals, or pay a reduced rate. Because no standardised rule exists in Europe, we recommend you keep a close eye on the continually changing lower limits in all countries

Which packaging needs reporting?


The term “packaging” is determined in detail by means of criteria and examples in the Directive 2004/12/EG. The current prevalent definition is as follows:

“Packaging shall mean all products made of any materials of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from raw materials to process goods, from the producer to the user or the consumer. ‘Non-returnable’ items used for the same purposes shall also be considered to constitute packaging.”

Packaging is categorised as sales packaging, grouped packaging, and transport packaging. In addition, in decisions of the commission, separate guidelines for handling pallets, returnable and reusable packaging are written, which will be incorporated into the national legislative text.

The differentiation between different kinds of packaging is a question of detail which varies from country to country. Some countries manage additional categories which, in exceptional cases, also have to be licensed with different return schemes. In other countries the licensing of some categories is non obligatory altogether.

Transport Packaging

Also referred to as “tertiary packaging”, i.e. packaging which facilitates the transport of multiple sales units and avoids transport damage.


  • Film for securing cargo loads
  • Cardboard boxes for lot sizes
  • Filler (e.g. foam material, bubble wrap, etc.)
  • Foldable plastic transport boxes

Group Packaging

Also referred to as “secondary packaging”, i.e. packaging which contains a particular number of sales units, that either reach the end-user or facilitate stocking of goods on shop shelves. This packaging is mainly used for marketing purposes and can be removed from the goods without influencing their characteristics—they are not an obligatory requirement.


  • Boxes for spirituous beverages
  • Folding boxes for toothpaste tubes and cosmetic articles
  • Cardboard sheath for a six pack

Sales Packaging

Also referred to as “primary packaging”, i.e. packaging which serves as protection of the goods on the way from commerce to the consumer, often extend product life but also serve marketing purposes. The disposal is at the hands of the end-consumer.


  • Cosmetic cream jars
  • Drink cartons
  • Laundry detergent bottles
  • Yoghurt cups
  • Cans