German Packaging Act 2 (VerpackG2) – What can retailers expect?
According to the Federal Environment Agency, around 18.9 million tons of packaging waste were generated in Germany in 2018. 69 percent of this was recycled. The Packaging Act, which is intended to ensure the highest possible recycling rate for packaging, has been in force in Germany since 2019. After two years of validity, the Bundestag has passed a comprehensive amendment to the law, also in order to meet the requirements of European law. This year and next, the Packaging Act will be supplemented by new regulations. Comprehensive obligations for online platforms, retailers and logisticians have been in effect since July 3, 2021.
Goals of the Packaging Act 2
The goals of the amendment to the Packaging Act is to implement EU law in German law. For traders who deal with packaging, this creates some changes. For example, the areas of application of some obligations have been expanded. In the future, new target groups will be included in the regulation. These include fulfillment service providers or marketplace operators such as Amazon and eBay. One major change has already been in effect since July 3, 2021. As of this date, final distributors of packaging that are not subject to system participation are obliged to provide packaging with information that informs about the return.
VerpackG2 – what changes?
Anyone who, as a manufacturer or distributor in the sense of packaging law, sells packaging that is not subject to system participation on a commercial basis is obliged to take it back free of charge at the place of actual delivery or in its immediate vicinity. The collection does not have to be carried out by the obligated party. New, as already mentioned, is that information must be provided about the return options “by taking suitable measures to an appropriate extent and their purpose”.
What is packaging that does not require system participation?
Section 15 (1) of the Packaging Act defines which packaging is included in the packaging that is not subject to system participation. These include:
They facilitate the handling and transport of goods by avoiding direct contact with the goods and avoiding transport damage (in retail). They are typically not intended to be passed on to end users. Classic examples are pallets or large packaging
Sales and outer packaging
… which are typically not generated as waste by private end users after use. This includes sales or outer packaging that is specifically intended for industrial or commercial companies
… for which participation in the system is not possible due to hazardous substances and / or health risks
… for filling goods containing pollutants
Reusable packaging is intended to be used for a recurring purpose. This includes packaging that can be cleaned, but also those in the catering industry that are funded by a deposit system.
Entry into force of the amendments of the Packaging Act2
The innovations do not come into effect in one fell swoop, but are divided into three stages. While various changes will only come into effect in the course of 2022, the adjustments of the first stage have been in effect since July 3, 2021.
- Take-back / recycling obligations according to § 14 (new: reusable packaging)
- Duty to inform end users according to § 15 by final distributors
- Provision of financial and organizational resources
- Possibility of authorization for foreign manufacturers
- Information obligations for systems according to § 14
- Evidence of the financial performance of the systems
- Insolvency-proof security of the systems
- Electronic signature for experts with regard to volume flow proofs
- In the LUCID packaging register: including information on the European / international tax number
Extensions to the deposit and take-back obligations will apply as early as January 2022. This second stage in the implementation of the Packaging Act 2 includes the following obligations:
- Obligation to provide evidence regarding take-back / recycling obligations according to § 15
- Self-control of the correctness and completeness of the documentation according to § 15
- One-way deposit obligations according to § 31
- Provision of financial and organizational resources according to § 15
- Information obligations of the systems according to § 14 on websites
From July 1, 2022, among other things, extended registration requirements will come into force. Anyone who wants to use packaging that is subject to licensing as a retailer must now register in a dual system. In the future, marketplaces are obliged to check that their dealers are behaving correctly. The same goes for fulfillment service providers.
The third stage, which will come into force on July 1, 2022, includes the following requirements:
- Extension of the registration obligation to all distributors and
- Final distributor of service packaging
- New information on types of packaging
- Obligation to declare about system participation according to § 7 and § 9
- Registration / inspection obligations of online marketplaces and fulfillment service providers
This means that not all requirements have yet been implemented. Further changes will come into effect at a later date:
- From January 1, 2023: Obligation to use reusable alternatives in the to-go area
- From January 1, 2025: separate collection obligations for EWK beverage bottles
- From January 1, 2025: minimum proportion of recycled material in PET-EWK beverage bottles (25%)
- From January 1, 2030: minimum proportion of recyclate in all EWK beverage bottles (30%)
Disposable Plastic Ban Ordinance (EWKVerbotsV)
At the same time as the Packaging Act2, the Disposable Plastic Prohibition Ordinance (EWKVerbotsV) came into force on July 3, 2021. This prohibits the placing on the market of certain single-use plastic products.
May no longer be placed on the market (stock clearance is still allowed):
- Cotton swabs (except medical devices)
- drinking straws (except medical devices)
- Stirring sticks
- Balloon sticks
- To-go food container made of expanded polystyrene (EPS)
- Beverage cups and containers made of expanded polystyrene (EPS)
- all products made from oxo-degradable plastic
Disposable plastic labeling regulation (EWKKennzV)
The EWKVerbotsV and the VerpackG2 are supplemented by the Disposable Plastic Labeling Ordinance (EWKKennzV), which also came into force on July 3, 2021.
For these, single-use plastic products placed on the market must be labeled either on the packaging or on the product itself:
- In future, single-use plastic beverage cups must be labeled on the cup itself.
- The labeling requirement on the packaging includes hygiene inserts (sanitary towels), tampons, tampon applicators and wet wipes that are used, for example, for personal and household care, as well as tobacco products with plastic-containing filters and plastic-containing filters for use in tobacco products.
- From July 3, 2024, single-use plastic beverage containers may only be placed on the market if their plastic closures and lids are firmly attached to the containers for the entire period of use.
Further innovations: Appointment of an authorized representative by foreign traders
An additional innovation came into force on July 3, 2021 and affects foreign producers and online retailers. Anyone who trades to Germany from abroad in the future must also comply with the Packaging Act. Affected actors can appoint an authorized representative in Germany who takes on the corresponding duties for the person responsible.
This is to ensure that he knows the obligations on the one hand and that someone in Germany can be held responsible if these are not properly fulfilled on the other.
In the years to come, online trading can look forward to many innovations. The legislature aims to make the entire value chain accountable. For too long, some actors acted without having to adhere to legal obligations. This problem is to be solved with the amendment of the electrical law. Online platforms, retailers and logisticians should familiarize themselves with the subject as quickly as possible in order to avoid possible sanctions and penalties.