Jy year after year, the consumption of packaging is increasing in Germany – and with it the corresponding amount of waste. According to the latest statistics, which refer to 2018, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) reports that 227.5 kilograms of packaging waste has recently been caused by every German citizen.
The quantities are thus almost 20 percent higher than in 2010. And the corona crisis is likely to push the numbers up further due to the sharp increase in online trade and the forced out-of-home consumption.
With an amendment to the Packaging Act, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) now wants to break the trend and in future both reduce the amount of waste and improve recycling. The reform, which is to be decided by the federal cabinet on Wednesday, implements EU guidelines, but in some cases it also goes far beyond them. WELT presents the most important innovations.
Extension of the deposit obligation
The deposit obligation is expanded. From 2022, the content of one-way beverage packaging will no longer be decisive, but the type of packaging material.
So far, for example, fruit juices, vegetable juices and non-carbonated nectar can still be sold in plastic bottles or cans free of deposit, as can milk, sparkling wine and wine or other mixed drinks with an alcohol content of at least 15 percent. This should be eliminated in the future, especially since it is often confusing for consumers, as surveys have shown time and again.
There are still a few exceptions, for example for milk. This special role is only valid for two years. From 2024, single-use plastic bottles with milk and milk products will also be subject to a deposit.
The dairies are sour. “These bottles belong in the yellow bag and not back in the store. Ms. Schulze turns the citizen into a garbage collector ”, says Eckhard Heuser, the general manager of the milk industry association (MIV).
The industry is strictly against a deposit requirement for milk bottles and argues like large parts of the trade with hygiene problems: “The machines for the return and the subsequent storage in the trade would not only lead to odor nuisance, but also a microbiological problem that they have so far machines used, ”says Heuser. What is meant is the remaining filling in the bottles, which can escape when crushed in the machine.
A general exception to the compulsory deposit applies to so-called dietetic drinks, which are only offered to babies and toddlers. However, they are used almost exclusively in hospitals and are not sold in food retailers.
For beverage cartons such as Tetrapak as well as for tubular bags, nothing changes according to the bill. You remain deposit-free.
Reusable in the to-go area
Anyone who sells food or drinks for out-of-home consumption may in future continue to use single-use plastic packaging. At the same time, however, restaurateurs, caterers and delivery services will also have to offer a reusable variant of food bowls or coffee-to-go cups from 2023. And it can’t be more expensive than the disposable version. In addition, the reusable offer must be clearly advertised.
An exception applies to small businesses with less than 80 square meters of space and a maximum of five employees, according to the amendment to the law, which WELT is available. The small businesses should fill their customers with food or drinks in containers that they have brought with them.
In the case of deliveries, according to the draft law, the storage and dispatch areas also count as sales areas. In addition, the rule only applies to the company, so it cannot be applied to individual locations in an existing branch network.
The Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) is already expecting “creative attempts” to circumvent the new regulation. “We will monitor evasive movements very closely,” announced BMU State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth. “This is just the beginning. If the intended steering effect does not take place, we will sharpen it. ”In any case, it is not desirable that plastic packaging will be replaced by aluminum trays in the future.
The industry association Dehoga is anything but enthusiastic – less because of the environmental aspect than because of the timing. “The discussion about a reusable obligation comes at an absolutely inopportune time,” said Dehoga CEO Ingrid Hartges to “Bild am Sonntag”. The last thing the gastronomy needs in times of corona restrictions is the prospect of additional costs and documentation requirements.
But the Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) is also dissatisfied. It is an important first step to require reusable reusable cups and food boxes. “But that’s not enough,” says the deputy DUH federal manager Barbara Metz.
“Large coffeehouses already offer reusable cups today, but often as pure alibi solutions that are rarely promoted or kept deliberately small.” What is therefore necessary is a fixed and binding reusable quota instead of a reusable offer obligation.
Minimum proportion of recycled material
From 2025 on, at least a quarter of plastic bottles should consist of so-called recycled material, i.e. recycled plastic. By 2030, the corresponding proportion should then even increase to 30 percent, in each case up to a bottle size of three liters.
The industry itself has been demanding this for a long time. Because although a lot of plastic is increasingly being recycled, the material obtained is not in demand to the same extent. Especially since primary raw materials are often even cheaper in view of the low oil price. Accordingly, there is praise from the waste management industry.
“That is the right step,” says Peter Kurth, President of the BDE industry association. “There is a consensus among practitioners that we need such regulations in order to achieve a form of production that aims to actually close the loop. The expansion of the use of recyclate is an important prerequisite for a functioning circular economy. “
The Advisory Council for Environmental Issues (SRU) also welcomes this initiative, but also calls for quotas in other areas. Because it must be ensured that an additional use of recyclate is achieved and not just a relocation of material flows.
To do this, however, the amount of recycled material must be increased significantly. “The need for primary raw materials can only be reduced through an increasing supply of high-quality secondary raw materials and the associated secure market availability,” says an open letter from the SRU. To do this, one must first of all increase the competitiveness of recyclates compared to primary raw materials, which are currently even cheaper than recycled material due to the low oil price.
“This can be supported by reducing subsidies,” advises the SRU. “The energy tax exemption for fossil fuels that are not used for heating or fuel should expire.” At the same time, additional taxation of primary raw materials for the manufacture of plastics must also be considered.