Steel packaging recycling in an expanded Europe

Related tags Steel packaging Member states European union

The ten new Member States of the EU have had to work flat out to
ensure that their legal systems are brought into line with the rest
of Europe's, and no sector has been busier than the food processing
and packaging sector. For example, virtually all of the new EU
Member States have now brought into force the 1994 Packaging
Directive, which sets recycling and recovery targets.

In 2002, steel packaging recycling in the EU 15 reached an average rate of 60 per cent. In accordance with the 1994 EU Packaging Directive, new EU Member States are actively promoting the collection and recycling of used steel packaging. For that purpose, packaging waste collection schemes based on themost successful models in Western Europe have already been launched in Czech Republic (Eko-Kom), in Hungary (öko-Pannon), in Latvia (LatvijasZalais Punkts), in Lithuania (Zaliasis taskas), in Poland (Rekopol), in Slovakia (Envi-Pak) and in Slovenia (Slopak).

"Gradual objectives have been set at national level and most importantly, significant progress has already been observed in some of the new Member States,"​ said Philippe Wolper, managing director of the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging (APEAL). "We are therefore confident that steel packaging will remain, in the EU 25, a major contributor to sustainable consumption."

In terms of meeting the legal requirements, steel significantly contributes to reaching the EU recycling target for metal packaging (steel and aluminium), which the Packaging Directive has set at 50 per cent by the year 2008. In 2002, steel packaging was the most recycled packaging material in Europe, followed by glass at 57 per cent. Across the western half of the continent, recycled quantities have tripled within the space of a decade.

And steel packaging is beginning to play an important role in the marketing of various food and beverage products in Central and Eastern Europe. APEAL is confident that steel packaging will remain, in the EU 25, a majorcontributor to sustainable consumption.

A recent study conducted by Landell Mills for APEAL in Poland, Hungary, Czech republic and Slovakia shows that in 2001 the consumption in food cans reached 1.8 billion units and is projected to grow at the rateof 3.5 per cent per annum. According to this study, steel represents 60 per cent of all food packaging in Central Europe.

In the aerosol segment, the total production in metal containers amountedin 2002 to 190 million units, an increase of 6 per cent compared to 2001. There are also excellent opportunities for steel packaging in the drinkscan market.

Recycled steel is an essential ingredient in the production of new steel. According to APEAL, steel is 100 per cent recyclable, and all steel products can be recycled into new steel applications. Steel can be - and is - recycled, time and time again, without deterioration in quality.

But some believe that Europe's packaging industry could be dong more. Organisations such as UK-based friends of the Earth will be looking closely to see whether EU expansion will result in increased levels of recycling.

"We use far more than our fair share of the earth's precious resources,"​ said waste and resources campaigner Claire Wilton. "Every ton of steel we recycle avoids the need to extract 1.5 tonnes of iron ore and just under a tonne of coal. But recycling household rubbish is still more expensive than burning it or burying it. Governments have to bring this perverse situation to an end by introducing higher taxes on landfill and incineration."

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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