Waste in general, and packaging waste in particular, has increased over the last decades to such an extent that the stakeholders have directed their efforts towards identifying the most appropriate mechanisms to reduce its impact on our environment.
Understanding the causes that determine the generation of packaging waste is a difficult task as there are many factors involved. Economic growth and changes in the social model have been reflected in many ways, some of them with direct influence on the generation of packaging waste: population growth, increasing purchasing power, smaller families,
The two reasons why the number of households in Europe has increased are (i) population growth over the last few years, and (ii) the emergence of new family models.
The increasing number of households and the reduction of their size explain a reduction of package sizes. These smaller sizes better suit the new society's needs because they allow a better use of the packaged product: a person living alone prefers packaged food in amounts allowing him full use of the product before the expiration date, whereas couples with children prefer sizes which allow taking them outdoors, etc.
The aging population also has an impact on packaging because old people prefer easy-to-open packages with easy-to-read instructions printed on the packaging.
The growing inclusion of women into the labour market also has an effect on packaging, reducing the time available for shopping and cooking. Families where both parents go out to work prefer convenience foods, either chilled or frozen, with longer expiration dates, etc.
The increase in the amount of packaging induced by these factors and other facts has been offset by the efforts of the European packaging industry with regard to prevention, with the result that the generation of packaging waste has increased at a rate below that of wealth generation over the last decade.