Food and drink packaging plays a vital role in protecting and preserving products for consumers. It allows food and drink manufacturers to offer consumers a wide choice of safe products that meet their lifestyle needs.

However, some packaging – particularly plastics – ends up in nature and contributes to the growing problem of (marine) litter. In addition, different packaging materials face different challenges in terms of circularity. Some materials, including some plastics, are already fully recyclable and the challenge is to ensure infrastructure is in place to collect, sort and recycle it, and that consumers dispose of the waste responsibly. For other materials, there is a need for innovation in recycling technology and sometimes redesign. There is an urgent need to ensure that all packaging is sustainable and reusable, recyclable or compostable to support a societal transition towards a circular economy.

As a major user of packaging, the food and drink industry fully acknowledges that it has a share of the responsibility with regards to the impact of the packaging that it puts on the EU market. With this Roadmap, Europe’s food and drink industry seeks to continue to improve the circularity of packaging for food and drink products to drive future innovation.

Join us on this journey and find out more about our efforts to make packaging more sustainable

Packaging extends the shelf-life of products by preventing spoilage.

Packaging acts as a protective barrier, reducing exposure to the elements (e.g. oxygen, light and moisture), which reduces spoilage and keeps foods and drinks safe for longer, giving consumers more time to enjoy their food.

“Active” packaging absorbs moisture and other gases, thereby increasing shelf life. Re-sealable packs continue to keep food fresher for longer after opening.

The food and drink industry is committed to providing its products in a wide variety of portion sizes, in order to fit the intended occasions. Individually portioned packs are important to help consumers control their calorie intake, thus encouraging them to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

FoodDrinkEurope and its members are committed to rolling out the voluntary nutrition labelling scheme, Reference Intakes, also known as GDAs, to help empower consumers to make informed choices. In addition, packaging provides a means to communicate mandatory information about food to consumers.

Over the last decades, much progress has been made in reducing the amount of packaging used in the first place, boosting recycling rates, making packaging more recyclable and reducing packaging waste

The amount of packaging put on the market is not growing as rapidly as consumption, suggesting a degree of decoupling. From 2006 to 2015, total household consumption grew 10%, while packaging increased only 1.8% during the same period


The EU recycling rate has increased from 47% in 1998 to 65% in 2015.


Food and drink manufacturers have played an active role in setting up packaging recovery organisations in almost all Member States to ensure the recovery and recycling of packaging waste in the most economically efficient and ecologically sound manner.

The way forward
Building on progress to date, food and drink manufacturers will:

Improve packaging design

In order to continue to offer consumers a broad choice of products, food and drink manufacturers use different kinds of packaging to best match the conservation needs of the product and consumers’ lifestyles. Therefore, food and drink manufacturers’ sustainable packaging design strategies are multi-pronged and fit-for-purpose. Key areas of focus are to:

I. Improve design for recyclability

Working on options to increase the recyclability of composite and lightweight plastic packaging and working with local authorities and the waste management sector to help remedy the situation and increase available facilities.

II. Increase the use of recycled materials

Further integrate recycled content into primary and/or secondary packaging ensuring that food safety is respected.

III. Explore the use of alternative materials

Continue to explore the use of alternative materials with improved environmental performance.
Actively support collection, sorting and recycling
The food and drink industry will continue to play an active role in supporting the development of well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling systems across Europe. The industry is also working with value chain partners and local authorities to develop new approaches to facilitate recycling.
Continue raising awareness
FoodDrinkEurope will continue to advocate for education and awareness-raising campaigns as a crucial part of a long-term joint effort to stop litter from arising in the first place, along with collection, improving waste management infrastructure and developing a range of end-of-life solutions.
FoodDrinkEurope Actions

FoodDrinkEurope will support food and drink manufacturers on their trajectory through several actions.

The Policy Enablers

Making food and drink packaging circular and sustainable is a societal challenge, and we have some policy recommendations to help us get there.

© 2018 FoodDrinkEurope.