Associations Fight Back Against Amendment to Packaging Law
8/30/2023 Sustainability New Paths Design Article

Associations Fight Back Against Amendment to Packaging Law

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) has presented a draft for amendments to the Packaging Act, but packaging industry associations are resisting the amendment. Among other things, they fear a national go-it-alone and demand a pan-European solution.

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment wants to increase the recyclability of packaging. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment wants to increase the recyclability of packaging.

Since the beginning of 2023, the packaging industry and the catering industry have been predominantly obliged to use reusable packaging in the to-go sector as a result of the new Packaging Act that came into force at that time. The aim of the BMUV’s measure was to increase the reusable quota, and now the authority is planning the next step. With the third version of the Packaging Act, there will be a tightening of conditions and rules to increase the share of reusable packaging even more significantly from the summer of 2025 onwards. According to the draft, supermarkets and discounters will in future be required to at least one reusable beverage container in addition to single-use ones at the same time. Furthermore, from 2025 onwards, it should be possible to return reusable bottles in stores that offer beverages and have a sales area of more than 200 square meters. In addition, the obligation to offer reusable packaging for to-go products will then apply not only to single-use plastic, but to all materials. For on-site consumption, only reusable packaging is to be offered, with the exception of small businesses such as kiosks or snack bars with an area of up to 80 square meters.

Associations Reject National Go-it-alone Approach

In a joint statement, eight associations from the packaging industry as well as the German Food Association point out what they consider to be heavy burdens for the companies concerned and want to prevent the draft presented in its current form. For them, the proposal comes at “an inopportune time”, and a German go-it-alone solution would lead to additional risks for the German economy. At present, negotiations are underway for the EU Packaging Directive, which is to come into force from 2025. “Making regulations that could be reversed in a year and a half by uniform European legislation carries the risk of an outwardly hasty and short-term seeming policy,” says Karsten Hunger, Managing Director of the Paper and Film Packaging Industry Association. “A current German go-it-alone approach would place additional burdens on companies throughout the supply chain and further restrict competitiveness,” adds Dr. Sieglinde Stähle of the German Food Association. According to the BMUV, there will be no national go-it-alone; the plans and drafts have been coordinated with the bodies in Brussels.

Fears of a Shift in Environmental Impact

The IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen lists another point of criticism, saying that there is no material that is sustainable per se. “Those who unilaterally reduce only single-use plastic products ensure a shift to other single-use packaging and thus merely shift the environmental impact,” says IK managing director Isabell Schmidt. The supposed ecological advantages of reusable packaging in the beverage sector have not been investigated in a current life cycle assessment. The BMUV states that such a life cycle assessment would lead to an enormous amount of bureaucracy, as it would have to be drawn up for each individual packagaging material in order to make a comparison. However, the issue is not about a specific packaging, but about the reduction of the entirety of packaging waste. The aim of the Single-Use Plastics Directive, said the ministry says, is a more effective implementation of Article 4, which requires EU member states to significantly reduce the consumption of certain single-use plastic products by 2026. The BMUV wants to promote ecologically beneficial reusable packaging, a spokesperson says. This would also advance an important goal of the coalition agreement and the consistent avoidance of waste. This also includes the expansion of deposit and return systems. Overall, the proportion of reusable beverages is only at 43.1 percent, the target of 70 percent set out in the Packaging Act is thus clearly missed.

Advantages in the Recycling of Packaging

When it comes to recycling packaging, the German Association of System Catering believes Germany is in a good position. Markus Suchert, Chief Executive of the association, calls for further strengthening of this economic cycle. “Germany is a frontrunner in the recycling of packaging and should further strengthen this successful economic cycle.” Consumers have accepted the relevant solutions, he says. Also, the blanket ecological advantage of reuse over recycling has already been refuted many times, the associations say. Cleaning and drying the containers leads to a high consumption of water and energy. It is essential to keep the ecological footprint as small as possible, while ensuring the best possible functionality of the packaging within the complete cycle.