In the mid-1980s, for the first time, the European Union introduced measures to manage packaging waste. Directive 85/339/EEC established rules relating to production, marketing, use, recycling and refilling of containers of liquids as well as the disposal of packaging waste.
To address the different environmental impacts of packaging and packaging waste, certain Member States have started introducing measures regarding this issue. As a result, divergent national policies have appeared; a situation harmonized at the European level. Thus, the directive 94/62/ EC was adopted in order for national measures regarding the management of packaging and packaging waste and the prevention or minimization of the consequences for the environment to be harmonized.
The transposition of the Directive into national legislation was adopted under Law 2939/2001, which set out general rules regarding alternative management of packaging waste, the rules for all the participating bodies that are obligated to manage packaging waste, the terms and conditions concerning alternative management of packaging and packaging waste, the conditions of approval and operation of alternative management packaging systems and the principal goals of recovery and recycling of packaging waste at the national level. (Source: eoan.gr).
Since then, have been many legislative amendments, which developed the contemporary requirements and the “alternative management of packaging and other products”, increasing the percentage of recycling that has to be achieved in order to keep pace with the European Directives.
Packages are segregated according to their materials in: a) glass, b) plastic, c) paper, d) metal (aluminum, tinplate), which are the most frequent packages. There are also the e) synthetic, f) wooden and g) mixed.
To create paper, like any other product, we need the raw material, which is called cellulose in this case and we get it mainly from the trees. More specifically, to create a tonne of paper, about 17 whole trees will have to be cut down so that we have enough cellulose to create it.
But what does this mean for the environment and consequently for humans, who are simply a part of it:
1) These 17 trees would hold rainwater at their roots, preventing flooding after a rainstorm.
2) These 17 trees would be shelter and offer life to various animals and plants, (which in many cases may be rare) forming a small ecosystem in itself. By cutting the specific trees to create paper we deprive the new generations of the opportunity to get to know the specific species.
3) These 17 trees would absorb about 17 tonnes of carbon dioxide (which is one of the main "greenhouse gases") and offer back respectively, about 12 tonnes of oxygen to breathe.
On the other hand, if we recycle our paper packaging or other paper products - cardboard and then use them as raw material:
- we would be able to save important natural raw materials,
- we would need less energy and water to recreate paper and cardboard,
- we would cause less pollution to the environment and especially from the use of chemicals and,
- we would be able to send much lower amounts of garbage to the landfill. In this way, we could reduce the volume of the garbage sent to the landfill and increase their lifespan.
It should also be noted that a paper package will take about 5 years to decompose completely, while consuming its contents may take us only a few minutes. Respectively, a newspaper will need about 2-4 weeks.
It is important to be noted that the paper packaging are discarded in a different collection bin (blue bin) while the other paper products - cardboards and printed material should be discarded in the yellow bin.
In the absence of the yellow bin, all the paper products – cardboards are also temporarily discarded in the blue bin.
Therefore, “source separation” must be applied effectively by citizens. This means that citizens should separate their waste according to its material which should be cleaned and discarded separately in the appropriate bin.
Every day materials
How to save/ reuse
It should always be considered a matter of priority as to whether a paper package can be reused for the same use for which it was created or whether its general reuse is possible in any way.
Also, all the categories of printed material (books, publications, newspapers, magazines, etc.) after being read by their owner, can be shared with other users so it can be reused and not become immediately waste.