According to the European Commission, in 2015, each citizen of the European Union generated 166 kg of packaging waste. However, in other regions of the world, the situation is even worse. Asia is the biggest packaging market, while African countries record the fastest growth rate in this category . These countries are characterized by very low waste recycling rates, most of the packaging litter is stored in landfills or enters the natural environment (e.g. Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand pollute seas and oceans to a higher extend than the rest of the world combined ).
The issue of packaging is directly related to consumer behaviour (in Poland packaging waste accounts for approx. 85% of household raw materials waste in total ). Unfortunately, there is a problem when public awareness of individual responsibility for the amount of waste generated is concerned. In Poland, 80% of consumers believe that our country produces too much total waste. However, only 33% of survey participants stated that their household generates excessive amounts of waste . The difference illustrates how a profound change must be made in order to reduce the negative effects of packaging production.
In addition to changes in consumer behaviour coping with the packaging waste problem it will be helpful to introduce new technologies to improve their processing. Perhaps they will allow us to overcome the barriers with which we currently face, e.g.:
- paper and cardboard can be recycled 6-8 times. Then such material is not suitable for further recycling, due to the strength properties and the content of adhesives and heavy metals.
- canisters made of plastic (PET) from recycling do not pass the strength tests.
- it is often more cost-effective to melt a given glass packaging than to re-use it after expensive cleaning.
It is worth mentioning that in recent years a positive trend concerning the relation between the level of GDP and the consumption of packaging has emerged. In recent years in the EU, GDP is growing faster than the amount of packaging used . The reasons for this trend are manifold. These include social changes, producers' actions, the impact of legislation. However, with long-term positive dynamics of the gross domestic product, the reduction of the growth rate of packaging consumption, with limited natural resources, will not be sufficient to limit the negative economic, ecological and social consequences of packaging waste.