Packaging law: What is important for companies

12. January 2023

The German Packaging Act (VerpackG) transposes the European Packaging Directive 94/62/EC into German law. It aims to protect the environment and ensure fair competition, helping to conserve natural resources. All companies that manufacture, import or additionally package goods in packaging in Germany must register with the Central Packaging Register as so-called initial distributors.

The Packaging Act (VerpackG) has a long history in Germany. According to the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), the original Packaging Ordinance was passed in 1991 and was the first set of regulations to establish the responsibility of packaging manufacturers in the disposal of resulting waste. Since January 1, 2019, the Packaging Act has replaced the previously applicable Packaging Ordinance. Anyone who places goods in packaging on the market in Germany for the first time (initial distributor), i.e. manufactures, imports or, for example, additionally packages as an online retailer, falls under the Packaging Act.

On July 3, 2021, the updated and amended Packaging Act came into force with an amendment. The latest amendments have been in force since July 1, 2022. According to the Federal Environment Agency, the Packaging Act is intended to avoid or reduce the impact of packaging waste on the environment, regulate the behavior of obligated parties in such a way that packaging waste is avoided as a matter of priority and, in addition, is prepared for reuse or recycled, and protect market participants from unfair competition.

Packaging Act aims to strengthen the circular economy

Since the Packaging Act is intended to help conserve natural resources, the legislator obliges companies such as manufacturers of packaged goods to assume responsibility for the entire life cycle of their packaging. They are designed to avoid waste, recycle it to the highest possible quality and use raw materials in a closed loop, according to the Federal Environment Agency. This means that the Packaging Act aims to strengthen the circular economy. This refers to a model of production and consumption in which existing materials and products are used, refurbished and recycled for as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of the products is extended. According to EU Climate Action Commissioner Frans Timmermans, a closed-loop circular economy is needed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, preserve our natural environment and strengthen our economic competitiveness.

No de minimis limits for small quantities

An essential obligation for companies is the registration in the packaging register “LUCID” for packaging before it is put on the market (§ 9 VerpackG). Whether the packaging accumulates at the private end consumer, the comparable point of generation or at the commercial customer is irrelevant since July 1, 2022. There are no de minimis limits for small quantities, according to the Munich Chamber of Industry and Commerce. No third parties may be commissioned for the registration and submission of the data reports in accordance with Section 10 of the Packaging Act, but must be carried out by the initial distributor himself. Important, according to the Munich Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “If a distributor of packaging does not register with the Central Packaging Register, he is acting irregularly and can be punished with a fine.” Further information is available from the Central Packaging Register Office, through which the registration for the packaging register “LUCID” also functions( “Licensing with a system operator is mandatory for packaging that accumulates at the private end consumer or at a comparable point of generation. The customers of online retailers should also normally be considered private end consumers. The system operator (Duales System) takes over the disposal of the packaging for a fee. There are no de minimis limits for small quantities,” the Munich Chamber of Industry and Commerce continues. The catalog of packaging subject to system participation at contains a detailed list of which packaging must be licensed in addition to registration.

Extensive take-back, information and verification obligations

In addition, there are further take-back, information and verification obligations. For example, packaging that is not subject to system participation and that mainly remains in trade, industry, larger craft businesses/workshops or in the commercial sector in general is subject to a take-back obligation. This means that companies, as distributors, must take back packaging (at the request of customers). Sales and outer packaging that does not typically arise as waste in the private sector, transport packaging, sales and outer packaging that is not compatible with the system, sales packaging for hazardous filling goods and reusable packaging are covered by the regulations on the disposal of packaging that is not subject to system participation.

The take-back and recovery obligations go hand in hand with new obligations to provide evidence pursuant to Section 15 (3) of the Packaging Act. Accordingly, manufacturers must provide evidence of compliance with take-back and recovery requirements for packaging that is not subject to licensing and must establish “appropriate mechanisms for self-monitoring” after securing documentation. This explicitly applies even if there is no system obligation, and furthermore: a manufacturer can be obliged to take back and recover both system-participating and non-system-participating packaging in Germany at the same time. Different solutions may be needed for different types of packaging.

Companies need to gain an overview of the entire value chain

Thus, supply chains belong in the general corporate sustainability strategy. This is pointed out, for example, by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Munich and Upper Bavaria. “Sustainable supply chain management is about taking a holistic and systemic view of all stages of the supply chain – from direct suppliers to raw material extraction. Sustainable supply chain management paves the way to avoid negative environmental impacts and human rights violations, thus contributing to sustainable development.”

This means that companies need to obtain an overview of the entire value chain, right through to raw material extraction, define where key sustainability issues and fields of action lie, and also whether and how a company can also encourage its own suppliers to be more sustainable in their production processes. An opportunity/risk-based approach is important here. A key factor here is communication and raising awareness among suppliers. The aim must be to make the entire logistics value chain as sustainable as possible. The key question is: Under what working conditions and with what impact on the environment are raw materials extracted, products manufactured and put on sale?

Customers must be informed about redemption

Manufacturers must also comply with information obligations for packaging that is not to be licensed (Section 15 (1) RegE-VerpackG). End consumers are to be informed about return options to an appropriate extent by means of suitable measures. This information can, for example, take the form of individual agreements on the modalities of return and/or the cost regulation for the disposal of the packaging. The purpose of this obligation is for manufacturers to explain to their customers why they should return packaging and what the objective is. These indication and information obligations must be suitable to really inform the customer, so that measures must be taken to make them concretely visible.

At Höppner Management & Consultant, as experts in corporate environmental protection, we take on the task of advising companies on all aspects of the take-back, information and verification obligations of the Packaging Act. Likewise, we can develop individual take-back and disposal concepts and in this way provide support in waste management, disposal and recycling of waste and recyclable materials, among other things.

Image source: Photo by Marcell Viragh on Unsplash