Draft Law: Those Who Rely on Single-Use Packaging Are to Pay
Manufacturers of products made from single-use plastic are to contribute to the collection and cleaning costs of local authorities. The business community has criticized the draft bill, Einwegkunststofffondsgesetz (EWKFondsG). Attorney Michael Below of law firm Heuking Kühn Luer Wojtek, who specializes in environmental and packaging law, explains the packaging industry's view in an exclusive interview.
Manufacturers of products made of single-use plastic are to contribute to collection and cleaning costs, according to the current draft law. Who does the special levy affect?
The special levy affects packaging manufacturers, but also entrepreneurs who see themselves only as retailers. This is because those who put filled products made of single-use plastic on the market for the first time are also to pay a contribution. For all of them, the draft law provides for a registration obligation.
How high is the special levy?
Below: The contribution assessment depends on the amount of plastic. Prices are planned per kilogram of single-use plastic and are to be dynamic. However, figures have not yet been published. In 2024, the reporting obligation is to come first, followed by the levy obligation in the following year. Manufacturers will then pay into a fund. The municipalities in particular will be able to receive money from the fund in the future, as they will finance the disposal of the waste.
What do you think of the planned law?
I take a critical view of it from a legal perspective. At present, an entrepreneur can hardly see through how high the cost burden will be. It is very intransparent. There is no calculation certainty for manufacturers. There is also no clear demarcation in terms of products, for example between a beverage container and a food container. Manufacturers of beverage containers made of disposable plastic are to be asked to pay more. But what about healthy dairy products, such as a yogurt drink, which is mostly consumed at home? Why should more be paid for this product? That it is reprehensible to throw waste on the street or not to dispose of it properly is beyond question here. The packaging manufacturers don't want that either. But why is it necessary to have such a complex system and bureaucracy with many borderline cases for this - and at the expense of the manufacturers? In the area of product responsibility in Germany, the self-organization of the economy has proven itself, for example with the dual systems. Here, a state-administered fund is being introduced at the Federal Environment Agency without any need.
What consequences do you see?
In the end, beverages and other food products will become noticeably more expensive, because manufacturers will have to pass on the additional costs. And this is happening at a time when prices have already risen due to high energy costs and inflation. This could lead to some products disappearing from the market altogether. For example, there is still the tubular bag packaging for milk. It is lighter and more sustainable than the glass bottle. Nevertheless, there is to be a special levy for it. That is incomprehensible. I also expect that there will be lawsuits from the industry. That may be interesting for us lawyers, but it cannot be in the spirit of the proposed legislation.
Starting in 2025, manufacturers of disposable products are to pay money to a fund managed by the Federal Environment Agency. The Single-Use Plastics Fund Act, which is contained in Article 1 of the bill, represents the last step for the time being in implementing the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive. According to the Federal Environment Ministry, this would amount to a total of 450 million euros per year. The municipalities, which have so far been responsible for financing waste disposal, are to be able to siphon off resources from the fund. The amount of the levy is to depend on the quantity of single-use plastic products first made available on the market or sold. The products affected include, for example, cigarettes with plastic-containing filters, plastic beverage containers and balloons. While criticism has come from the business community, the planned law does not go far enough for environmental associations.