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Compulsory re-use of to-go products without effect

In order to restrict the littering caused by packaging waste such as single-use cups and trays in town centres and parks, railway stations and pedestrian zones, Germany has introduced its compulsory re-use for such products at restaurants, supermarkets and fuel stations beginning of 2023. For example, single-use cups for beverages fall under the new legislation, irrespective of the material from which they are made. With single-use containers for food, however, it is dependent on the material. If a restaurant owner or supplier offers the meal in a single-use dish made of plastic or with a plastic content, he must have a re-usable alternative at the ready. For this reason, many companies offering take-away meals have, according to press reports, switched to less environment-friendly disposable alternatives made of cardboard or aluminium. The German Government intends to change this part of the packaging legislation.


Since January 1, 2023, take-away food and drinks must, according to § 33 of the packaging legislation (VerpackG) in Germany, also be offered in a re-usable pack. The re-usable packaging must not be more expensive or in any way inferior to the single-use pack. According to figures from the nature protection organisation WWF, the proportion of re-usable packaging in the catering trade throughout Germany last year was 1.6 %. This results to a doubling of the ratio compared with 2022, say environmental protection organisations such as the WWF and the Environmental Aid Germany (DUH). Nevertheless, this is still overall far too low, also because control of the adherence to the regulation is insufficient. It is also the case at present that only companies that sell take-away meals in packaging made of plastics must offer re-usable packaging. Many caterers were therefore offering their meals no longer in single-use plastic containers but in paper, cardboard and aluminium film. Although this is legal, say the environmental associations, it contradicts the idea of the legislation to avoid waste. The government has already announced that it would revise this item of the packaging legislation. Germany's Environment Minister, Steffi Lemke (Green Party), wants to close the gap by extending the obligation to offer re-usable packaging to all materials. Exceptions that relate to the material of the single-use packaging, should be dropped out. As a result, the requirements relating to re-usable alternatives should on the whole become simpler and more readily understandable. Consumers should in future be able to choose a re-usable alternative where food and drinks are sold in single-use packaging. Lemke thus also wants to make things easier for the Authorities of the German Bundesländer, who are responsible for executing the control of adherence to the packaging legislation.

  • Süddeutsche Zeitung (27.6.2023)
  • (27.6.2023)
  • (29.1.2024)
  • Photo: ©, Localize

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