Germany: New packaging law sets new targets for packaging recycling

A new packaging law has been approved by the Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, in a bid to improve recycling of packaging waste through new targets for 2022 and the use of bioplastic as a sustainable alternative to traditional plastic.

The Verpackungsgesetz, as it is known in German, will come into effect in January 2019 after being approved by the lower house in March and amendments approved in the upper house in early May, with recycling targets of 63 per cent for plastic packaging and 90 per cent for metal, glass and paper.

The law also states that incentives must be provided by the systems that collect waste fees to encourage the use of recycled and renewable materials, with bio-based and recycled materials – already used in Germany for the collection of biowaste – gaining parity of esteem regarding their viability as a solution to make packaging more sustainable than more established alternatives.

Local municipalities will be responsible for determining how to carry out collection of the recycled and bioplastic packaging and how it is to be measured – in tonnes or bags. In addition, it will be up to individual municipalities whether they collect additional plastic and metal waste together with the existing dual-collection system.

The law provides for the establishment of a central office to co-ordinate dual systems and their competition and the bidding process for collection services contracts will be improved through increased transparency.

Commenting on the new law, Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said: "The packaging legislation is an important step in furthering the development of the recycling industry. I am relieved that we have succeeded in finding a viable compromise, which takes due account of various interests, and which is particularly beneficial to the environment."

The approval of the law is the latest in a line of moves around Europe to find innovative plastic solutions within the context of mechanic and organic recycling and the circular economy. In 2016, France adopted a ‘Green Growth and Energy Transition law’, making mandatory the use of bio-based, home-compostable packaging for certain uses like vegetable bags in supermarkets, with packaging to contain 30 per cent bio-based content by 2017, 40 per cent by 2018, 50 per cent in 2020, and 60 per cent in 2025.

In March of this year, as part of the Circular Economy Package’s legislative amendments, the European Parliament tabled a proposal to revise the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive supporting the use of bio-based materials in packaging products, with decision on how to create the requisite legislation left up to individual EU Member States.

The new German law can be read in full (in German) on the Bundestag’s website.

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