Everything you need to know about the take-back obligation for packaging in Germany
With the introduction of the Packaging Act (VerpackG) and the obligation to take back packaging contained therein, the legislator aims both to reduce the total amount of packaging waste and to make higher recycling rates mandatory. In order to achieve this goal, the Packaging Act connects at various points in the production and supply chains of the respective companies and thus makes manufacturers and suppliers increasingly responsible. In particular, the Packaging Act contains provisions for the take-back of packaging. In the following article you can find out which areas are covered by this regulation and what you need to consider for your company.
Who is subject to the take-back obligation for packaging?
The basic idea of the Packaging Act is that whoever places packaging in the market should also be responsible for its disposal or recycling. This also applies in particular to the obligation to take back packaging. The decisive factor here is primarily whether your company, as an entrepreneur, uses packaging that is typically only disposed of by the private end consumer/household or whether the packaging is used earlier, i.e. in the B2B area. A special case of the obligation to take back packaging is packaging which, although only fulfills its purpose for the private end user, cannot easily be disposed of by the consumer himself. In the latter two cases, the respective manufacturer or supplier is obliged to take back the packaging put into circulation by himself, in accordance with the provisions of the Packaging Act. The type of packaging affected by this regulation is finally listed under Section 15 of the Packaging Act:
- Transport packaging
- Outer packaging and sales packaging, which after use typically does not arise as waste for private end consumers,
- Sales and outer packaging for which environmentally compatible waste recycling is not possible after a corresponding decision by the German packaging authority
- Sales packaging for filling goods containing harmful substances
- Reusable packaging
How a company appears on the market, for example as an online retailer or as a manufacturer, does not make any difference to the take-back obligation under the Packaging Act. The only decisive question is whether you, as an entrepreneur, have brought one of the above-mentioned types of packaging into circulation in any form. If so, then you are also obliged to take back said packaging.
What does the take-back obligation for packaging include?
In addition to the actual scope of the take-back obligation for packaging, the Packaging Act also prescribes precise rules for the take-back itself.
First of all, you only have to take back packaging in the form in which you put it on the market. In principle, this excludes the obligation to take back packaging that has been damaged by another dealer or forwarder or is no longer suitable for normal use. So if you were to supply a subsequent dealer with pallets, you would not have to accept a stack of loose boards. Taking the pallet as an example, the take-back obligation for packaging is very clear. But what about dented barrels or heavily soiled cardboard boxes? Even if certain basic rules can be derived from the law, detailed questions such as these can often cause difficulties in individual cases.
The same applies to the return location. According to the lagislation, the obligation to take back packaging implies that the return must always take place at the place of the actual delivery or in its immediate vicinity. Deviating from this, the return of a recurring delivery can take place at a later delivery. In addition, companies also have the option of making different agreements to fulfil the take-back obligation for packaging in order to save costs or resources, for example. It is often not easy to see which ways make the most sense here and which solution is the most efficient.
Particularly in such controversial issues, professional advice on the packaging law on the take-back obligation for packaging or the forwarding of these tasks can prove to be particularly valuable.
What do I do with the packaging that is returned to me?
How you deal with the packaging you have taken back can vary greatly depending on the type of packaging. As a general rule, the obligation to take back packaging means that the greatest possible environmental compatibility should also be achieved here, that is, minimizing the footprint or impact of these activities. In individual cases, however, the appropriate process cannot always be clearly identified. The spectrum ranges from simple reuse, through recycling to a recovery of the packaging that requires evidence or records of the activities performed, and without competent advice it can be difficult to keep track of things.
Can I request payment for the return of packiging waste?
A remuneration for the return of packaging is not provided. In fact, Section 15 of the Packaging Act expressly stipulates that packaging must be taken back free of charge. The reason for this can be found in the spirit and purpose of the law. The take-back obligation for packaging should, in line with the “polluter pays” principle, hold precisely those companies responsible that contribute to increased packaging volumes.
What happens if my companie does not comply with the take-back obligation for packaging?
Since the obligation to take back packaging is intended as a recommendation or guide, the legislature has issued various regulations on fines to enforce the rules. In particular, as a company or business, you are subject to increased liability due to your position in commercial transactions. Even a negligent violation of the provisions of the Packaging Act can lead to severe fines. This also applies to the obligation to take back packaging, which can be difficult to keep track of due to its complexity.
In order to be on the safe side legally, we recommend that you, as a manufacturer, distributor or dealer, fulfill your obligation to take back packaging by commissioning a service provider such as Deutsche Recycling. We offer you 100% legal security so that you can take care of your core business without further worries. We look forward to helping you with any questions you may have. Simply contact us using our contact form!