What is Packaging?

Packaging exists to deliver products to consumers in perfect condition. Well-designed packaging meets the requirements of the product while minimising economic and environmental impacts of both the product and its package. Good packaging uses only as much of the right kind of material as necessary to perform this task.

As packaging is reduced, the range of scenarios under which product losses occur rises, until the increase in product loss exceeds the savings from the use of less packaging material. Any reduction in packaging beyond that point is a false economy, since total amount of waste in the system increases.

Functions of Packaging

Packaging has a number of functions:


  • Prevent breakage (mechanical protection)
  • Prevent spoilage (barrier to moisture, gases, light, flavours and aromas)
  • Prevent contamination, tampering and theft
  • Increase shelf life


  • Description of product
  • List of ingredients
  • Product features & benefits
  • Promotional messages and branding


  • Product identification
  • Product preparation and usage
  • Nutritional and storage data
  • Safety warnings
  • Contact information
  • Opening instructions
  • End of life management


  • Product preparation and serving
  • Product storage
  • Portioning


  • Provision of consumer units
  • Provision of retail and transport units


  • Transport from producer to retailer
  • Point of sale display

Waste Reduction

  • Enables centralised processing and reuse of by-products
  • Facilitates portioning and storage
  • Increases shelf life
  • Reduces transport energy

Good packaging benefits society ... appropriate packaging helps prevent or reduce product waste and facilitates centralised processing and distribution. Proper packaging assures the availability, of safe, hygienic and undamaged goods. Correct design and use of packaging also helps reduce the environmental impacts of transportation.

provided sound policies are adopted and ... packaging choices and policies need to be guided by systematic scientific studies such as Life-Cycle Analysis, used carefully and with results responsibly interpreted.

used packaging is valorised .. used packaging is a valuable resource which should be optimally managed. EUROPEN strives to promote adoption of the best available policies and practices in order to maximize recovery/recycling of used packaging.

using a variety of methods ... different local conditions will require various combinations of recovery/recycling to achieve best results. The choice and establishment of targets must be based on practical experience and scientific knowledge.

with shared responsibility ... responsibility for the recovery/recycling of used packaging falls on consumers, local/national governments and all members of the packaging value chain. Valid solutions involve the collaboration of all parties to develop compatible systems for the collection and recovery/recycling of used packaging. Such systems will in turn be integrated with other waste stream management systems as they develop.