More Reusable Containers Starting 2023

From January 2023 onwards, catering businesses must offer their customers a reusable solution for out-of-home business.

Starting January 1, 2023, all restaurants and catering businesses with 80 square meters or more must offer their customers the option of receiving these meals in reusable containers. Sustainability is the order of the day. This now also affects the takeaway food and beverage business, which expanded significantly during the pandemic.

The regulations soon to come into force are based on European requirements that must be implemented in all member states. The so-called Single-Use Plastics Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/904) stipulates that member states must take all necessary measures to bring about an ambitious and lasting reduction in certain single-use plastic items “leading to a significant reversal of the trend in increasing consumption,” in line with the overarching goals of EU waste policy.

German lawmakers intend to implement this requirement along with the regulations in the Packaging Act, creating a need to adapt for businesses such as caterers, certain delivery services, and restaurants.

Those who supply packaging to end consumers, known as final distributors, will also have to offer food for consumption at the point of sale in reusable packaging starting in 2023. The emphasis here lies on the alternative offer. The restaurateur can still package the menu in the classic disposable packaging. However, as the final distributor, he must now also offer reusable packaging as an alternative. There is an exception for smaller businesses with a sales area of no more than 80 square meters and up to five employees. Pre-packaged food or beverages, such as sandwiches, are not subject to the reusable packaging requirement.

Food and beverages in the reusable packaging may not be more expensive than in the disposable packaging. However, the caterer can also offer a deposit for reusable packaging. The final distributors must take back reusable packaging that they themselves have placed on the market – but not third-party reusable packaging as a matter of principle.

Reusable packaging is the next upheaval in packaging, says Pacoon Managing Director Peter Desiléts. The sustainable packaging expert has been an advocate of reusable solutions for years. Representatives at the 2nd German Reusable Packaging Conference, hosted by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) in Berlin on Tuesday, November 22, expressed similar views.

DUH calls for sanctions and taxes

The best solution to the single-use waste problem is to make reusable the standard. That is the core message of the conference. Together with many participating companies and associations, DUH is calling on Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, as well as local authorities, to take targeted measures to promote reusable solutions. These include a waste avoidance target, reusable quotas, single-use levies, better tax treatment of reusables, and green public procurement. Barbara Metz, DUH’s federal managing director, said, “To protect the climate and resources, every package that does not have to be produced again counts. The consistent implementation of the reusable quota in the Packaging Act is an important step in this regard: the savings potential for non-alcoholic beverages alone is up to 970,000 tons of CO2 per year. But the reality at discounters like Aldi and Lidl is different. No reusable beverage containers are offered there at all, but instead disposable plastic bottles and cans. That’s why Federal Environment Minister Lemke must act and sanction the constant undercutting of the statutory reusable quota by imposing a levy of at least 20 cents on single-use plastic bottles and cans in addition to the deposit.”

DUH also believes that the mandatory reusable container offer, which will come into force on January 1, 2023, will not be enough to make reusable-to-go packaging dominant in the market. With its tax on disposable-to-go tableware, the city of Tübingen is showing at the municipal level what Environment Minister Steffi Lemke should be doing at the federal level, they say.

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