Information & Orientation

Extended producer responsibility for packaging in the context of German packaging law

In Europe, packaging is subject to an extended producer responsibility (EPR): companies placing packaged goods on the market must minimise the harm their packaging does to the environment.

From an environmental perspective, the best packaging is no packaging at all. That is why the prevention of packaging is at the very top of the waste hierarchy. The ways society has changed over the past several years are reflected in its use of packaging: online retail and food takeaways are booming as the numbers of both single households and people working full time are rising, all of which is triggering a surge in processed foods and ready meals. The ecological footprint of packaged goods is generally much greater than that of the packaging itself. These factors mean the demands placed on packaging have also increased. In keeping with the principle of prevention, packaging is designed to dramatically extend the shelf life of products. It is precisely this issue that has led to situations where packaging is sometimes used that is only partly suitable for recycling, or that cannot undergo high-quality recycling, for example because of barrier coatings. Another example is small 'single-serving' packaging: it prevents food waste but means more packaging is used and leads to an increase in the number of packaging units. These conflicting ecological goals are a challenge.

That is why it is all the more important that packaging should be reusable or suitable for high-quality recycling where it cannot be prevented. To ensure a level playing field, companies must assume extended producer responsibility for their retail, grouped, shipment or service packaging by paying for its recycling. And to promote high-quality recycling of packaging waste, the entire value chain must be taken into account and greater awareness must be raised among consumers. This is the idea behind the Verpackungsgesetz (Packaging Act), which entered into force on 1 January 2019.

Role, duties and goals: The ZSVR and German packaging law

Click here for the Packaging Act

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