As of 1 January 2019, far reaching new rules apply to the disposal of packaging in Germany. Considerably more packaging must be recycled. New standards define to what extent different types of packaging are actually suitable for recycling. In addition, provisions ensure that all businesses using packaging also pay for their collection and recycling. The new Packaging Act supplies the basis for all this. A key element of the legislation is the new Central Packaging Registry LUCID. Using LUCID, every citizen can check the extent to which manufacturers fulfil their product responsibility.
In Germany, product responsibility for packaging was introduced in 1993. It means that anyone putting goods into packaging or importing packaged goods to Germany also has to pay for disposal of the packaging. In the area of packaging that ends up as household waste, this payment is collected as licence fees paid to what is known as dual system providers, companies that organise recycling. However, numerous businesses did not fulfil their duties. Because of this, no financial incentive existed to forego superfluous packaging.
Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze stated: "We want industry to really contemplate what packaging is necessary and what environmentally friendly materials could be used. This works especially well when environmentally harmful behaviour is expensive and environmentally friendly behaviour is being rewarded. This was the starting point for the new Packaging Act. Less packaging, but more recyclable – that is our goal."
A great innovation introduced by the Packaging Act is the Central Packaging Registry foundation, which began operating as an official body at the beginning of the year. The registry’s aim is to improve transparency and control of both the use and the disposal of packaging. Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze explained: "Environmentally conscious people who sort their waste must be assured that the packaging is actually being recycled. That is the only viable way to build people’s trust in our recycling system. The Central Registry is a key element in this."
The Central Packaging Registry functions roughly as follows: Any business using packaging and packaging goods has to enrol in the registry; the business name and all of its brands will then be published. In addition, the business must provide information about the quantity of packaging destined to become household waste that it will use and sell or put into commercial circulation. The Central Registry will compare these data with the data provided by the dual system providers on the quantity of recycled packaging. It will then become public knowledge which businesses are fulfilling their financial product responsibility and thus ensuring that targeted recycling quotas can be met.
"We started the registry already in August 2018 on a private law basis as we were aware of the numerous copycats," Gunda Rachut, board member of the foundation Central Packaging Registry, reports of the initial implementation of the foundation. "The high number of enquiries coming from people putting packaging on the market for the first time with no knowledge about product responsibility confirmed to us the necessity of the measure and the Packaging Act. Currently more than 130,000 businesses have signed on to the Central Packaging Registry LUCID," Gunda Rachut continues, "That makes 70,000 more businesses registered than was the case with the dual system providers – a really good start."
In addition, new standards have been developed for the packaging registry. These include a catalogue of packagings for which system participation is mandatory and a guide on assessing the recyclability of packaging. The latter supports dual system providers in also considering ecological aspects when calculating their licence fees. Gunda Rachut commented: “These standards ensure high quality, from packaging design all the way to recycling. At the same time, they provide those obliged to participate with a reliable legal framework, which makes it much easier for them to see what their duties are. This combination of transparency, high standards and efficient control will allow us to reach the goal of the Packaging Act.”
Businesses can register on the website of the Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister (ZSVR, Central Packaging Registry). Businesses required to participate must use the portal to register their reference data and their brands. The process is very simple and takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. The company and brand names of businesses registered are publicly accessible via the Central Packaging Registry LUCID. This means that not only the central registry but also consumers and businesses will be in a position to check on how manufacturers, retailers and importers live up to their responsibilities.