The waste in general, and particularly the packaging waste, has grown over the last decades, so that the stakeholders have directed their efforts to identify the most appropriate mechanisms to reduce its impact on our environment.
Understanding the causes that determine the generation of packaging waste is a difficult task as there are many factors involved. Economic growth and changes in the social model have been reflected in many ways, some of them with direct influence on the generation of packaging waste: population growth, the increasing purchasing power, families with fewer members...
The population in Europe has been increased the last years. This fact is one of the reasons why the number of households has increased; the other main reason is the new family models.
The increasing number of households and the reduction of their members explain a reduction of consumption size formats. These smaller formats fit better with the new society's needs because they allow a better use of the packaged product: a single person living alone prefers packaged food in amounts that allows him the full use of the product before the expiration date, couples with young children prefers formats which allow taking them outdoors, etc.
The aging population also has its impact on packaging because old people prefer packages with easy-open systems and with a text easy to read printed on the packaging.
The still growing incorporation of women into the labor market also has its effect on packaging, reducing the time available for shopping and cooking. Families with both working members prefer convenience foods, either chilled or frozen, with longer expiration date, etc.
Efforts in Prevention of Europe's packaging industry have offset the effect of these and other facts which increases the amount of packaging, so that the generation of packaging waste has grown below the increase of wealth generation during the last decade.
The members of PRO EUROPE also wish to demonstrate that the recycling of used packaging is an important step on the path towards the sustainable development that is necessary to safeguard our planet for future generations. These are some key facts on this subject:
• About 170,000 companies are contributing licensees/members of PRO EUROPE member systems.
• About 400 million inhabitants have access to separate collection financed by PRO EUROPE member systems.
• About 32,000,000 tonnes of packaging have been recovered by PRO EUROPE member systems in 2009.
• More than 25 million tones of CO2 equivalent has been saved by the work of PRO EUROPE member systems in 2009.
• About 460 billion packaging items are labeled yearly with the ‘Green Dot’, a registered trademark in more than 170 countries.