Auditors who undertake work under the Verpackungsgesetz (Packaging Act) safeguard two important aspects of the Act:
a) they confirm that large producers have paid for their packaging to be recycled and
b) they audit recycling plants to make sure that only packaging that has actually been recovered is counted towards recycling quotas.
Every audit is based on the ZSVR’s audit guidelines which were developed by the Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister (Central Agency Packaging Register – ZSVR) in agreement with the German Federal Cartel Office. Auditors represent an important interface between law, competition and environmental protection. They are meant to prevent greenwashing and help implement environmental law; a good auditor ensures that packaging gets recycled.
Meaning of the court decision
The Administrative Court’s decision has achieved a great deal in the interests of legal certainty by generally clarifying
- when the audit guidelines are considered to have been violated in gross breach of duty, and
- when a breach is considered to have been committed repeatedly.
A total of two incidents, even if they are different in nature, is sufficient to constitute a repeated breach. An auditor acts in gross breach of duty if they, according to objective standards, have deviated particularly far from the applicable law or violated a particularly important requirement. It was further clarified that the subjective guilt of the expert is not a determining factor.
Relevance to the ZSVR’s future work
The ZSVR analyses the work that auditors do. There are already over 700,000 pages of auditor documentation. The ZSVR now has a clear legal framework to prevent untrustworthy auditors from concealing packaging law breaches.
Gunda Rachut, Chair of the ZSVR, commented: ‘Unsatisfactory audit work causes considerable harm to market participants and endangers the objectives of the Verpackungsgesetz. The Osnabrück Administrative Court’s decision has provided us with a clear framework against which experts will have to measure themselves. An important step towards fair competition, protecting the environment and fighting packaging law breaches.’
Further information can be found in this overview