Report • 20.07.2020

Recycling packaging materials for the sake of the environment

What the German Packaging Act (“Verpackungsgesetz") means for retailers and manufacturers

Images of plastic accumulation zones in the world's oceans, dying animals, ice melting at the poles and extreme drought – as climate change intensifies, so too does public discourse. Garbage and packaging waste are top issues and play an important role on many levels. On January 1, 2019, the new German Packaging Act entered into force. It aims to increase recycling rates and promotes the use of eco-friendly and recyclable packaging. How does it affect manufacturers and retailers?

The German Packaging Act: What are the new obligations?

The Packaging Act mandates manufacturers and distributors of packaging materials to register with the newly created Central Packaging Registry (CPR, “Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister”) and participate in a dual system. The system participation comes with a fee. "Section 21 of the Packaging Act is new and mandates dual system operators to create financial incentives for packaging that is easily recyclable or made from renewable raw materials," explains Stefan Munz, founder and CEO of CLOVER Sustainability Services GmbH, a systems house for packaging management. “Section 21 is designed to promote the use of eco-friendly and recyclable packaging and renewable raw materials.”

New obligations for retailers

When does this become relevant for retailers and when do they have to register to participate in the dual system? Generally, retailers are not the entity that commercially places packaged goods on the market for the first time. In this case, retailers don’t have to register packaging through a license. However, they are obliged to inquire whether their supplier legally complies and meets all the packaging requirements. If this is not the case - if the retailer imports packaged goods into Germany for the first time, for example – the retailer is responsible for the license before selling products on the German market.

Retailers must also handle the licensing portion if they distribute their own packaging, paper bags, or tote bags. Online retailers who use their own packaging for shipping also need a license.

Garbage
Source: Bildagentur PantherMedia / londondeposit

Defining the recyclability of packaging

Recyclability largely depends on whether the packaging can be explicitly sorted into recycling streams (glass, paper, and Germany’s so-called yellow bags). The separable components of packaging made up of multiple reusable materials is yet another critical factor. When components or materials are incompatible, it can also thwart recycling due to contamination.

Biodegradable packaging options: Worse than their reputation

"A recycling infrastructure is a key element of successful recycling and comes in the form of relevant systems for collection, sorting and processing," underscores materials scientist Dr. Wolf Karras. “If we didn’t have designated glass recycling containers in public areas, it would not make ecological or economic sense to use glass in the first place. It would not be recyclable and subsequently not be competitive as a packaging material.”

Karras also references biodegradable packaging options. Even though they are beneficial for the environment in some instances, there is no recycling infrastructure that adopts a value-retention process. Disposal [recycling] via bio-waste containers is feasible if the packaging is compostable, but waste management companies are not fully in favor of this option as they are concerned about trash contamination issues caused by conventional plastics. The packaging is typically disposed of in yellow bins (“Gelbe Tonne”), but there is no added value and ultimately simply contaminates the quality of conventional plastics. Meanwhile, a separate bioplastics recycling waste bin is too expensive given the quantities currently in circulation.

Where do we stand, and where do we go from here?

According to the latest statistics from the German Environment Agency (“Umweltbundesamt”), there has been a surge in packaging usage in Germany in recent years. This puts Germany on top of per capita packaging consumption in Europe. However, Germany is also one of the top performers when it comes to recycling. "Germany has been an absolute trailblazer since the introduction of the dual system in 1991. It has set the benchmark for other countries and provided guidance on effective EU directive implementation," explains Munz.

He is not entirely pleased about the development in recent years. His vision for the future is to set a target recycling rate pertaining to all types of packaging materials of first distributors, resembling the fleet management requirements for car manufacturers. "If you set a 90 percent recycling rate, you hold all distributors who put packaging into commercial circulation accountable but you also allow some flexibility. For example, this permits them to stay below the designated recycling rate for their meat packaging to benefit hygiene requirements and shelf-life if they can simultaneously increase their rate to 100 percent for less-perishable products.”

Karras has a somewhat more critical perspective on this trend and specifically the implementation of the Packaging Act: "In my view, it’s important to finally commit the systems to take credible action in implementing Section 21. Everyone must take steps to meet the minimum standard. This standard applies to everyone, which is why everyone should be involved in making successive improvements and be on the same page.”

Author: Sonja Koller

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: Warehouse management: optimized, automated, product-oriented...
15.10.2020   #logistic systems #logistics

Warehouse management: optimized, automated, product-oriented

Tips on how to ensure warehouse optimization

Digitization, e-commerce, increasing customer demands, and expectations – factors that not only impact retailers but also affect the way warehouses are organized. In this interview, Johannes Tress, Co-Founder and Managing Director at everstox ...

Thumbnail-Photo: How retail drone delivery may change logistics networks...
08.09.2020   #logistics #delivery

How retail drone delivery may change logistics networks

Chance for retailers: best-possible delivery-time guarantee zones

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas say drone technology has the potential to be a genuine game changer in the retail industry, with its promise to enable retailers to offer unheard-of delivery lead times and near-perfect delivery-time ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Contactless robotic grocery delivery service...
06.10.2020   #delivery #robotics

Contactless robotic grocery delivery service

Save Mart’s flagship store in partnership with Starship Technologies

Save Mart has announced the launch of an on-demand grocery delivery service to its guests at the flagship store in Modesto, California in partnership with robot delivery company Starship Technologies. Marking the one-year anniversary of its opening ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Same-day delivery from 76 Costco warehouses across Canada...
03.08.2020   #food retail #delivery

Same-day delivery from 76 Costco warehouses across Canada

Partnership between Instacart and Costco

Instacart and Costco announced the companies have partnered to launch same-day delivery from 76 Costco warehouses across Canada. Following a successful two-month pilot in select Ontario warehouses, the nationwide collaboration brings Costco's ...

Thumbnail-Photo: ALDI to trial click and collect
29.09.2020   #services #food retail

ALDI to trial click and collect

The supermarket is testing its first UK click-and-collect services

The supermarket is currently running a trial of the service for Aldi colleagues from a store in the Midlands and plans to extend that to customers in the coming weeks.During the current trial, Aldi colleagues can choose from a full range of grocery ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Delivery services: consumer and climate benefits...
14.08.2020   #e-commerce #customer satisfaction

Delivery services: consumer and climate benefits

Sustainable logistics solutions for last mile delivery

Convenient, fast, and affordable. By now, "sustainable" has also been added to the list of what makes for the perfect online ordering process. That’s why retailers and delivery services must rethink their ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Last mile: What do you have to do?
14.08.2020   #supply chain management #logistics

Last mile: What do you have to do?

How to win the battle for customer experience excellence in both the first and last mile of delivery

As recent events have caused major supply chain disruption with many physical stores abandoned, e-commerce has never been more under the spotlight. The double-digit growth the industry has seen over the last few years looks set to continue, ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Millennials averaged 50% more online deliveries than baby boomers …...
22.07.2020   #online trading #e-commerce

Millennials averaged 50% more online deliveries than baby boomers …

… even though millennials favor eco-friendly choices

Millennials have become online “super buyers” during the COVID-19 lockdown and are receiving an average of 50 per cent more deliveries every week than the over-55 “baby boomer” generation, a new survey of 2,000 consumers has ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Door-to-door delivery and returns service
13.08.2020   #online trading #fashion

Door-to-door delivery and returns service

Asda trials George parcel returns via home shopping deliveries

Starting last week, Asda has launched a two-store trial allowing customers to conveniently return George parcels at the same time as they receive their weekly shop.Customers in York and Milton Keynes can now return George online purchases for free ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Spotlight on ... deliveries
14.08.2020  

Spotlight on ... deliveries

Learn more about the latest delivery trends in our focus topic

Im Versand wie im Verkauf - mit Verpackungen hat der Einzelhändler tagtäglich zu tun. Doch was macht eine gute Verpackung aus? Welche Vorschriften müssen Einzelhändler kennen? Und warum sollte eine Verpackung smart sein?Das und ...

Supplier

Axis Communications GmbH
Axis Communications GmbH
Adalperostraße 86
85737 Ismaning