Online Retailers Must Register Packaging

The amendment to the Packaging Act expands the group of packaging distributors subject to registration. The registration obligation will apply to all types of packaging from July 2022. Online marketplaces will no longer be allowed to accept goods from manufacturers who have not previously registered their packaging in a system. 

Gray paint buckets and blue plant pots that are 90 percent recycled and fully recyclable: Gunda Rachut, executive director of the Central Packaging Register Foundation (ZSVR), showed examples at the joint press conference with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) that demonstrate there has been significant progress in recyclability for packaging.

Recycling volumes from the dual system increased again by 8.4 percent in 2020. Legal quotas were met by systems on average, Rachut explained. This was based on significant progress in packaging designed for recycling, he said. There is a wide range of fully recyclable packaging available without sacrificing product protection: all shapes, all materials and, for marketing, a variety of designs. Packaging made from mono-materials is still the front-runner in terms of recyclability, he said.

The minimum standard for measuring recyclable design for packaging has initiated many innovations, another conclusion said. “Marketing has discovered the ecological packaging. If it is the recyclable mono-packaging, which also saves material, then the minimum standard has achieved its effect. If it is a material composite that is difficult to recycle and only suggests ‘eco’ with brown color, then it is a dead end in terms of the circular economy,” Gunda Rachut explained.

New registration obligation and requirements for marketplaces

The year 2021 was also marked by the amendment of the Packaging Act. In the first stage of implementation, the option for foreign manufacturers to appoint an authorized representative in Germany was integrated into the LUCID packaging register. This representative is to guarantee the implementation of the substantive obligations. Following the example of the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElektroG), the legislator hopes for a significant increase in the implementation of foreign manufacturers in compliance with the law. On July 1, 2022, another stage of the new regulations will come into force: full registration for all types of packaging and responsibility for marketplaces and fulfillment service providers. The goal, he said, is that no one will be allowed to market packaged goods in Germany who is not registered. Marketplaces must ensure this for their suppliers.

“Registration numbers have increased significantly in 2021, especially from China. The extended obligations address the known weak points: Foreign manufacturers, marketplaces and free riders. We implemented the first stage on July 3, 2021, on time with a show of force. We are currently working on implementing the changes to the law on July 1, 2022 in a streamlined manner so that manufacturers can show that they take product responsibility for their packaging seriously with as little bureaucracy as possible,” said Rachut, clarifying the current challenges.

The task now, he said, is to safeguard and build on the progress made under the Packaging Act. New packaging developments must be integrated into the evaluation of the minimum standard. The annual revision has proven its worth, he said, in order to correctly reflect the high level of innovation. Further development opportunities will arise from the evaluation of the Packaging Act. “The direction is positive: the Packaging Act has triggered the necessary developments. There is no longer any excuse for unavoidable packaging not to be designed as a future resource,” said Rachut.

The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is calling on companies to review their packaging and systematically optimize it ecologically. Significantly more reusable offerings would also have to be introduced – and beyond beverage packaging in other areas, such as mail order and on-the-go consumption. “In packaging design and disposal, the next few years will determine whether we succeed in transforming to a true circular economy. We need to reverse the trend in the continuing rise in packaging volumes. The avoidance and high-quality recycling of packaging material must become the norm in order to protect the climate and conserve resources,” says UBA Vice President Lilian Busse. This requires, in particular, that packaging be kept to a minimum, that significantly more reusable packaging be used, and that packaging be designed to be highly recyclable and that significantly more recyclates be used in its production.

BA: Good recycling rate

According to UBA, recycling rates for packaging waste from private end consumers are developing positively: 50.5 percent of the waste collected in yellow garbage cans and sacks, including misdirected waste, was recycled last year. The Packaging Act requires at least 50 percent. All quota targets for individual packaging materials were also met and exceeded on average by the dual systems in 2020. For example, 93 percent of the ferrous metal packaging participating in the systems went for recycling. For plastic packaging, 60.6 percent was recycled. “Our packaging is recycled in very large proportions. I can emphatically contradict the myth that everything that ends up in the yellow garbage can or yellow bag is incinerated anyway,” says Busse. Nevertheless, there is a great need for action, because the legal requirements will increase again next year. Then even more packaging waste will have to be returned to the cycle.

Packaging that cannot be recycled well should disappear from the market wherever there are other packaging options for the goods it contains or packaging is unnecessary, said Bettina Rechenberg, head of department at UBA.

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