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Germany – New Packaging Act

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On 1 January, the new Packaging Act (“Verpackungsgesetz”) will replace the existing Packaging Ordinance (“Verpackungsverordnung”). Non-compliance with the new rules may have very unpleasant consequences.

For those who sell packaged goods to end consumers in Germany it is high noon: they have to adapt to the new packaging law, which comes into force on January 1, 2019.

The main objective of the new law is that in the future all concerned parties will have to take responsibility and bear the costs of disposing their packaging. The legislator also wants to achieve the increase of the recycling rate of paper, plastic, metal or glass packaging, and to use as many readily recyclable materials as possible. Therefore, the fee that producers or distributors must pay for disposal will in future not only depend on the quantity and material type, but also more on the recyclability of the packaging.

Who is affected by this law?

Manufacturers, online dealers and distributors of packaged goods of all kinds.

Affected are all so-called initial distributors of packaging, which typically end up at the private end consumer. These can be manufacturers, online dealers and distributors of packaged goods of all kinds, whether food, electrical appliances or furniture.

All of them, if they place packaging on the market for the first time, must register with one of the dual systems already today and, depending on the quantity and material of the packaging waste, pay a participation fee to the German take-back system.

It is new from next year on that they additionally have to register with the Central Agency Packaging Register and specify the amount of waste.

This information will be publicly available. By doing so, the legislator wants to create transparency and ensure that all those who place “packaging” on the market fulfill their obligations.

Also new is that the fees, which so far have been simply calculated according to quantity and type of material, should in future also depend on how well a material can be recycled.

For example: Cardboard boxes, which usually consist of two-thirds of waste paper, are easily recyclable, as are aluminium cans, which can be reused to 100 percent. By contrast, the notorious coffee-to-go cups are not recyclable because they consist of a quasi-inseparable composite material.

How exactly the gradations will look is not yet certain, as the dual systems still work on the implementation.

Further innovations for beverage manufacturers and distributors

The law contains several other changes that are particularly important for beverage manufacturers and distributors. The compulsory deposit for disposable containers will be extended to include a few types of beverages that were previously exempted, such as carbonated fruit and vegetable nectars. A new duty has been introduced for retailers, who must point out “with clearly visible signs” on disposable and reusable beverage packaging.As from 1st of January 2019 companies must also file the so-called Declaration of Compliance (“Vollstaendigkeitserklaerung”) with the Central Agency Packaging Register and not anymore with the respective local Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

What is the Declaration of Compliance?

A Declaration of Compliance is a verification concerning the volumes of sales packaging placed into the market by a manufacturer / distributor within one calendar year.

The filing of the Declaration of Compliance, however, only affects larger manufacturers, since the de minimis limits are set quite high in this respect. For paper, cardboard or carton it is about 80 tons per year.

Pre-registration is already possible as from September 2018. It is important to note, however, that every company involved in the system must perform the registration and data reporting “personally”, meaning that this process may not be transferred to third parties.

The respective database run by the Central Agency Packaging Register is called LUCID. Manufacturers, online dealers or initial distributors who preregister with LUCID will receive a provisional registration number, which will be sent to the Dual system with which they can sign a contract. There are currently nine companies offering this. Manufacturers who preregister in 2018 will automatically receive a registration confirmation from the Central Agency Packaging Register at the beginning of 2019. The registration including the indication of quantities is free and can be done online.

The Central Agency Packaging Register is also responsible to monitor compliance with the regulations. However, at the end of the day, everyone can check the respective compliance as LUCID is a transparent register and open to everyone to search the register for specific manufacturers and brands.

The law explains why this can have quite unpleasant consequences:

In case the registration is omitted, there is automatically a ban on distribution of the packaging and there is a threat of fines to be imposed which may range up to 100.000 €! Due to the publicity of the register, agents not complying with the law may have to expect that their goods will be discontinued in the German trade.

Still unclear issues

The definition of packaging covered by this law is not quite clear. Transport packaging such as that used by a manufacturer for delivery to the dealer and disposed of there, for example, is not affected by the obligation to participate at the system and the new registration obligation. This packaging does not end up at the private end consumer. But what about wine boxes, for example? They are often only transport packaging, but some customers may take a whole box of their favorite wine with them. In addition, hotels and restaurants, such as those supplied by a retailer, are considered by law to be private end consumers.

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