What's that mean to your European packaging operations? Nothing right now and not much in the near future. Here's why: The Directive was adopted as a "harmonizing" initiative meaning the idea was to establish a single directive on packaging and packaging waste for Europe. This reasoned those who suggested the idea in the first place would promote free trade among the various EU member states. Unfortunately passage of the EU directive doesn't mean packaging managers now have a single European packaging law to comply with. It will be a long time if ever before that happens. What it does call for is: * collection of 50-65% of all packaging materials and * recycling of 24-45% of all packaging materials with no less than 15% of any one material type recycled. That's about as hard as the numbers get with this Directive. How individual EU member states go about achieving those targets is left up to the states. And even if and after all 15 current EU members (Austria Belgium Denmark England Finland France Germany Greece Ireland Italy Portugal Sweden Spain Switzerland and The Netherlands) adopt the Directive each country can and will still impose its own national environmental packaging laws. That's because the Directive just sets up the recovery and recycling targets. How individual EU countries shoot for the targets is left up to them. Germany for instance won't have to dismantle its "Green Dot" Duales System Deutchland (DSD) fee system for package recycling. Nor will it have to scale back its higher household packaging waste recovery and recycling rates - as long as they can demonstrate that their initiatives aren't harming international free trade. The Directive doesn't even address two of Europe's harshest anti-trade packaging laws: Denmark's ban of beverage cans and Germany's quotas for beverage containers. Individual EU states have until June 1996 to adopt the Directive as law and five years after that before its collection and recycling targets must be met. Bottom line? The Directive won't force you to change your packaging... and it won't force EU countries to change their packaging laws. The measure does little to cut through the web of European environmental packaging regulations you'll be facing well into the first decade of the 21st century.