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When 10 countries joined the European Union in May, they had to begin working on compliance with the amended EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. While collection and recycling systems for steel packaging waste are well established in western Europe and compliance rates rise every year, things are not so clear in central and eastern Europe.

Solutions to collection, recovery and recycling of waste vary between countries depending on patterns of consumption. Official data is difficult to come by, according to Apeal, the Brussels-based steel packaging industry association. Average consumption of steel packaging in the new member states is 2kg per person compared with 10kg in the original EU-15 states, says Apeal, so there is very little packaging waste in the new markets, making extensive kerbside collection schemes too expensive at present.

However, work towards compliance is taking place progressively, mainly via integrated waste-management systems based on the Green Dot model whereby fillers and packers take responsibility, and Apeal says that there could be municipal solid waste incinerators in some new EU member states by 2010.

By August 2005, all EU member states have to adopt the amended directive into national law, with a compliance date set at the end of 2008. However, each new member state has been set a later deadline, sometime up to 2015.

Material-specific recycling targets for packaging have been set for the first time: metal packaging waste now covers steel and aluminium with a combined target of 50%, recycling of glass and paper must reach 60%, plastics 22.5% and wood 15%. The overall recovery target is 60% and overall recycling 55%.

A study commissioned by Apeal in 2001 and published by development consultants Landell Mills discovered that consumption of steel cans for food in four key countries Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia has been growing at 3.5% a year. In 2002 the production of steel aerosol cans rose by 6% on 2001.

The collection and sorting of steel packaging from the household waste stream is the most pressing problem. The recycling rate for industrial steel packaging mostly drums and strapping is about 80%, matching that in the EU-15.

According to Pro-Europe, the EU umbrella organisation for Green Dot schemes, in 2003 the Czech Republics scheme, Eko-Kom, reported a recycling rate for all metal packaging of 40%; in Slovakia Envi-Pak recycled 23.6%, and in Latvia Latvijas Zalais Punkts recycled 36% of its metal packaging. Recycling of industrial steel packaging in Hungary reached 90.9% through Öko-Pannon, and in Poland 15% of steel packaging was recycled via Rekopol. Household collection has to improve in western Europe too, and Apeal emphasises that this can only be done with a significant extension in the number of municipal sites with magnetic separation.

Since each EU member government is free to interpret EU directives, more than one type of compliance scheme has been established. However, the Green Dot model dominates Europe, while Poland and the UK have introduced market-based systems.

Under the Green Dot scheme it is the fillers and packers, whether domestic producers or importers, that take responsibility. At the end of the year, each reports the tonnage of steel packaging put on the market and pays a fee to the Green Dot organisation, which has contracts with collectors.

The market-based schemes rely on competition to keep the costs down. Poland has 30 competing schemes and the UK has 20. According to steel packaging producer Corus, in the UK the responsibility is spread across the whole chain to include the producers of steel packaging and the retailers of goods packed in steel, with each having costs proportionate to turnover. Obligated producers buy PRNs as evidence of recycling from accredited waste processors and the money is invested in the recycling infrastructure.

Growth in recycling steel packaging waste will be driven by the new targets, but also by the progressiv

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