Materials

EUROPEN members operate across the five families of materials used in packaging. EUROPEN is dedicated to satisfactorily resolving the environmental challenges facing the packaging chain in an active and co-operative manner without favouring any specific packaging material or system.

Glass is produced from sand (around 40%), limestone (around 10%) and soda ash (i.e. sodium carbonate, around 15%). Sodium carbonate helps the sand melt evenly while limestone is used to increase its durability. The remaining 35% of the mixture is made up of other compounds and recycled glass. This mixture is then heated in a furnace at a temperature of approximately 1700 degrees Celsius. Recycled glass melts at a lower temperature than the raw materials, so for every 10% of recycled glass in the mix, 2.5% less energy is used.

What steps does the glass packaging have to take to be able to be placed on the EU market?

 All packaging that is placed on EU market must comply with several standards and requirements that are set out by EU legislation. The Essential Requirements, which can be found in the Annex of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC), outline the requirements specific to the manufacturing and composition of packaging as well as to the reusable to the recoverable nature of packaging.

For glass packaging coming into contact with food, either directly or indirectly, there is additional EU legislation governing the manufacturing process. The Food Contact Materials Regulation sets out rules on the composition of the materials that come into contact with food, and establishes a list of substances that are allowed for use in their manufacture

What are the European Union's recycling targets for glass packaging?

  Current recycling target 2025 2030
  Glass 60 % 70% 75%

Did you know?

The first glass bottles were made in 1500 BC in Mesopotamia. Until the early 20th century, when automatic glass forming machines were developed, glass containers were an artisanal and hand-made product.
Metal packaging is made out of either aluminium or ferrous metals (i.e. steel-based). Metal packaging uses both virgin raw materials and recycled materials. Iron ore is the raw material used for the production of steel, while bauxite is used for aluminium. Both undergo a process of melting to remove impurities and other elements are added (i.e. carbon for steel and alloying elements, such as magnesium, for aluminium) to reach the perfect composition to create the metal packaging we know. Both materials are then further processed: steel is rolled to produce the thickness needed, and the melted aluminium is formed into ingots, slabs and rolls of thin sheets.

In the aluminium cans production, for example, thin aluminium sheets are cut to the right size and proportion. The bottom end and the body are shaped from one sheet of metal. Through air pressure the bottom end is pulled into the can, which creates the concave shape. On the top, a second end is seamed to the can to close it and form a complete package for sale. In the modern manufacturing plants, up to 3000 cans can be produced per minute.

What steps does the metal packaging have to make to be able to be placed on the EU market?

All packaging that is placed on EU market must comply with several standards and requirements that are set out by EU legislation. The Essential Requirements, which can be found in the Annex of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC) outline the requirements specific to the manufacturing and composition of packaging as well as to the reusable to the recoverable nature of packaging.

Further to the Essential Requirements, metal packaging also has to comply with the REACH legislation, which governs chemical substances found in metal. For metal packaging  coming into contact with food, either directly or indirectly, the Food Contact Materials Regulation sets out rules on the composition of the material that come into contact with food, and establishes a list of substances that are allowed for use in their manufacture.
 

What are the new recycling targets for metal packaging?

 
Current recycling target
2025 2030
Ferrous metals
50 %
70%
  80%
Aluminium
50%
50%
  60%

Did you know?

In 1795, Napoleon offered a prize to anyone who could suggest a method of preserving food. A chef, Nicholas Appert, proposed sealed containers and glass bottles. The Napoleonic wars ushered in the use of sealed metallic containers that not only protected but also preserved their contents. An English inventor, Bryan Donkin, used metal (iron) plates which were dipped into tin to protect them against rust, and then soldered to make a container. The “tin canister” was born.

The primary raw material for the production of paper and corrugated cardboard comes from pine trees. After the trees have matured, they are harvested and replaced with seedlings for reforestation. The trunks of the trees are shipped to a pulp mill, where the tree trunks undergo a kraft process where wood chips are broken down into fibrous pulp. These fibres are then sent to the paper machine where they are formed, pressed, dried, and rolled into rolls of kraft paper, which are sent to corrugating plants to be made into cardboard. They are then sent to the filler, where the cardboard sheets are formed into the final container.

Only a few other raw materials are needed to make a finished cardboard box. For example, corn starch glue is used to bond the corrugated medium to the liner sheets and waxes made from paraffin or vegetable oils can be applied to make a water- or grease-resistant container for food contact products.

What steps does the cardboard packaging have to be able to be placed on the EU market?

All packaging that is placed on EU market must comply with several standards and requirements that are set out by EU legislation. The Essential Requirements, which can be found in the Annex of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC) outline the requirements specific to the manufacturing and composition of packaging as well as to the reusable to the recoverable nature of packaging.   

For cardboard packaging coming into contact with food, either directly or indirectly, there is additional EU legislation governing the manufacturing process. The Food Contact Materials Regulation sets out rules on the composition of the materials that come into contact with food, and establishes a list of substances that are allowed for use in their manufacture.

For cardboard packaging specifically the producers have also to prove that they comply with the “Good Manufacturing Practice” (GMP). GMP is a standard which covers the manufacturing of packaging made of corrugated and solid board in order to ensure that all reasonable precautions have been taken in the manufacturing process.

What are the new recycling targets for cardboard packaging?

 

Current recycling target

2025 2030

Paper and Cardboard

 60 %

 75%

85%

Did you know?

The American Robert Gair invented by accident the pre-cut foldable cardboard box in the late 19th Century. Gair, who worked as a printer and paper-bag producer used his metal ruler to crease bags, but on one occasion it shifted into position and cut them. Gair discovered that by cutting and creasing in one operation he could make prefabricated paperboard boxes. This idea was then used for cardboard boxes as well.

Plastics come in many forms, the most common ones being PET, PE and LDPE, which make for rigid and flexible plastics packaging. The raw materials for plastics are, among others, cellulose, other biomass sources, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil.

As diverse as plastics are, so diverse are the techniques with which they are shaped and formed. For example, plastic bottles are produced through the process called “blow molding”. This process starts out with melting down the plastic and forming it into a parison. The parison is a tube-like piece of plastic with a hole in one end through which compressed air can pass. The parison is then clamped into a mold and air is blown into it, which pushes the plastic outwards to match the mold. At the end of the process, the plastic is cooled and hardened. The temperatures for these processes depend on the plastic type that is being shaped. If the manufactures change the design and the molding of the bottle, then this can take up to 8 months before the new mold is ready for use in the molding process.

What steps does the plastic packaging have to take to be able to be placed on the EU market?

All packaging that is placed on the EU market must comply with several standards and requirements that are set out by EU legislation. The Essential Requirements, which can be found in the Annex of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC) outline the requirements specific to the manufacturing and composition of packaging as well as to the reusable to the recoverable nature of packaging.

For plastics that come into contact with food, either directly or indirectly, there is additional EU legislation governing their manufacturing process. The Food Contact Materials Regulation sets out rules on the composition of plastic material that come into contact with food, and establishes a list of substances that are allowed for use in their manufacture.

What are the new recycling targets for plastic packaging?

 
Current recycling target
2025 2030
 Plastics
22,5 %
50%  55%
  Did you know?

Early plastics discoveries happened in the nineteenth century, but it was only decades after that this material had its first packaging applications: for instance, flexible plastic packaging appeared in 1926.

Wood is used mostly for pallets and crates, which is called tertiary packaging or transport packaging. At the beginning of the production of pallets, the wood is cut and assembled. High volume nailing machines that are fully automated are used to mass produce the pallets often at a rate of over 200 pallets per hour. 

The wood generally comes from managed forests and is frequently reused for a number of transport cycles. 
 

What steps does the wood packaging have to take to be able to placed on the EU market?

All packaging that is placed on the EU market must comply with several standards and requirements that are set out by EU legislation. The Essential Requirements, which can be found in the Annex of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC) outline the requirements specific to the manufacturing and composition of packaging as well as to the reusable to the recoverable nature of packaging.

There are special requirements for wood packaging that originates from outside the EU. For non-EU wood packaging which is intended to be placed on the EU market 2002 FAO International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) n° 15 have to be complied with.

What are the new recycling targets for wood packaging?

 
Current recycling target
2025 2030
Wood
15 %
 25%
 30%
 
 Did you know?

Japan is home of the first traces of packaging, dating back 12 000 BC, made of natural materials like wood, wicker, animal skin and hair.