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FAQ: Packaging and Recycling Laws

What is the European Directive on packaging, packaging waste, and recycling requirements?

What is the “eco-label”?

Are there any country specific requirements within the European Union?

What other countries have similar regulations?

Who is responsible for meeting the regulations?

How can I find out more information about packaging and recycling regulations?

What is the European Directive on packaging, packaging waste, and recycling requirements?

The European Union’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which entered into force in 1994, guided member states efforts to harmonize national measures on the management of packaging waste to ensure that member states’ restrictions on packaging do not create barriers to trade within the EU. Furthermore, the Directive is intended to reduce the overall impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment.

The Directive covers a variety of packaging (paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metal) and calls for measures to prevent the production of packaging waste and reuse, recycle and recover packaging.

What is the “eco-label”?

An eco-label is a label manufacturers print on their packaging to demonstrate that their product is environmentally friendly. The Eco-label program in the European Union is intended to give industry incentive to behave in a more environmentally responsible manner. The program is supposed to assist consumers in making purchasing decisions and to reward producers of “green” goods by helping increase their market share. To obtain an Eco-label valid for three years, manufacturers or importers must apply to the competent body in the member state in which the product is either manufactured or imported. That competent body will, in turn, circulate the company’s application to other EU countries to obtain EU-wide approval. For more information visit the Europa website or call 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) and ask to speak to a European trade specialist.

Are there any country specific requirements within the European Union?

Yes, for example Germany has established legislation that contains certain rules for the disposal of packaging materials. In response to this legislation, a cooperative effort for the collection and recycling of packaging materials was initiated. The organization involved is called the "Duales System Deutschland," and it administers the use of the "Green Dot," a recycling symbol that is found on the packaging material of virtually all products sold in Germany. While packaging material for products sold in Germany is not legally required to carry the Green Dot, it is almost impossible to market a product in Germany without it. Typically, the importer pays a license fee to the packaging company, dependent on the type and amount of packaging, and provides the exporter with the necessary information. Other European countries have initiated similar programs like the Green Dot, including; France, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

What other countries have similar regulations?

Japan: In April, 2000, the Government of Japan will begin full implementation of its Packaging Recycling Law, with manufacturer’s obliged to pay the associated collecting, sorting, transportation and recycling costs for all paper and plastic containers and packaging. In the case of imported products, importers will be held responsible for paying recycling costs. If the imported products are private-labeled, the corporation using the private labeling will be held responsible for recycling costs. U.S. exporters should be aware that Japanese importers might take associated recycling charges into account when choosing goods to import.

To find out if the country you are exporting to has recently enacted packaging regulations, contact the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E).

Who is responsible for meeting the regulations?

The importer is generally responsible for meeting the recycling and packaging requirements of its country. However, U.S. exporters should be aware of the EU’s, Japan’s and other countries’ packaging and recycling regulations, as many foreign buyers will take into account the type of packaging your company is using for international shipments. U.S. companies may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage if their packaging material does not meet their buyers’ domestic standards.

How can I find out more information about packaging and recycling regulations?

Call the Trade Information Center at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E), Monday through Friday, 8:30am-5:30pm EST. International Trade Specialists are available to help you find the specific information you seek. If they do not have the information you seek, they will be able to point you in the right direction of find the information with the assistance of the Commercial Service posts overseas, to identify appropriate sources.


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