Packaging is defined as any material which is used to contain, protect, handle, deliver and present goods. Packaging waste can arise from a wide range of sources including supermarkets, retail outlets, manufacturing industries, households, hotels, hospitals, restaurants and transport companies. Packaging is commonly made of a variety of materials including: paper and cardboard; wood;plastic; metal and glass. Items like glass bottles, plastic containers, aluminum cans, food wrappers, timber pallets and drums are all classified as packaging.
The main piece of legislation governing packaging and packaging waste in Europe is the twin directive: European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC. The Directive integrates product and waste policy, covering all packaging materials. It obligates Member States to meet targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste. It covers all packaging placed on the Community market. The classification of packaging waste and ordinary waste is defined according to the three criteria in Article 3 of the Packaging Waste Directive. Producer responsibility arrangements are in place throughout Europe, introducing measures relating to the prevention, reduction and elimination of pollution caused by waste and the management of packaging and packaging waste. On 2 July 2014, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal and annex to review recycling and other waste-related targets in the EU Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, the Landfill Directive 1999//31/EC and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC with an aim to help turn Europe into a circular economy. The proposal sets ambitious targets for packaging waste. Recycling and preparing for re-use of packaging waste to be increased to 80 % by 2030, with material-specific targets set to gradually increase between 2020 and 2030 (to reach 90 % for paper by 2025 and 60% for plastics, 80% for wood, 90% of ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030).