Europe’s Recycling Laws Costing Packagers $10 Billion per Year

Europe's complex package recycling laws are costing industry about $10 billion per year in fees, data collection and package tracking for 15 countries, according to experts who spoke at the first "Take it Back!" Workshop Nov. 12 in Chicago, organized by Raymond Communications, Inc.

Under takeback laws now on the books in about 28 countries world-wide, manufacturers must join and pay fees to a collection organisation, or get their own packaging back

British consultant Michael Coe estimated that it takes an average of $500,000 on up for a larger multi-national a company to set up a package tracking system and calculate fees in Europe, and another $100,000 per year to maintain the system. Observers say the total cost to meet the European packaging requirements can be as high as $10 billion per year, when fees are added in.

Indeed, the paperwork frequently costs more than the actual fee, which is paid to any of the more than 50 industry recovery organisations in Europe, and Asia, according to Victor Bell, president of Environmental Packaging International, another workshop speaker.

The fees vary widely in each country, and definitions of “packaging” and “composites” also differ.

For example, 1,000 folding cartons with no coating (or one less than 5%) would be assessed $22.90 in Germany, $1 in Belgium, and $5.10 in France. A foil/plastic laminate would cost $120 in Germany, $40 in Belgium, but the same $5.10 in France.

Some Packages to be Banned

Bell also points out that under the existing draft of the “essential requirements” from Europe’s standards organization (CEN) many U.S. packages will be banned in Europe. For example, blue glass bottles, PVC shrink wrap and sleeves, cosmetics gift packs, even some software packages and ink jet cartridges will not pass muster.

The rules, to take effect in 2000, will require a written assessment that the package has been source-reduced, and must be recyclable, reusable or safely burned, and will not negatively impact on any of the country’s recovery systems. Packaging that cannot be justified on protection, safety, or marketing grounds will be prohibited.

Not tracking these developments can be a genuine liability, Bell warns. For example, a software company found that its distributors were not paying third-party fees in Europe – the firm could have been liable for fines, back fees and even prosecution.

“If your distributors have not asked you for packaging data, then you should be worried,” Bell stressed.

Proceedings will be available in early December from Raymond Communications, Inc

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