Germany proposes to extend producer obligations – what you need to know

If your company is putting products and packaging on the German market, here is what you need to know about the country’s new “Recycling Law” proposal.

Following the example of France which earlier this year adopted a law promoting the circular economy, the German coalition government have recently agreed on a benchmark proposal, suggesting that reforms to the existing legislative waste framework and a new Recycling Law are well underway. 

The new law would introduce a significant overhaul to current producer obligations in Germany, starting with an extension of takeback legislation to producers of non-packaging materials, i.e. to companies selling products made of plastic, metal and composites. 

Although there is no draft text or timeline for implementation yet (although a working document is currently prepared), the proposed measures could be adopted as early as next year, according to German newspaper, Die Zeit. 

The background 

Germany was the first country in Europe to adopt and implement producer responsibility for packaging waste and its 1991 packaging ordinance has been amended several times over the last 14 years, principally in 2009. 

Obligated producers and distributors of sales packaging have to take part in a so called dual system (approved compliance scheme) whose operating scope is closely linked to the country’s local authorities for approval, and collection of waste. 

After years of speculation, case studies and consultation with industry stakeholders, businesses and communities, the proposed new legal framework is intended to increase resource efficiency, maximise collection and recycling, as well as centralise waste management. 

The proposed changes and scope 

The following changes affecting producers are currently under discussion: 

  • The existing producer responsibility obligations will be extended to non-packaging materials, such as plastic, metal and composites 
  • Recycling rates and license fees will be adjusted based on recyclability of materials 
  • The introduction of a “central authority” responsible for registration of producers, packaging license fees, and the tendering process for collection and treatment of waste 

Impact on producers putting goods on the german market 

Extended scope of obligations 
Non-packaging products made from metal, plastics or metal-plastic composites are widespread consumer goods, from paperclips and scissors, to pots and pans, cutlery, bicycles, Tupperware and toys. 

Under the new law, producers selling such goods into Germany would have to participate in the financing of their collection and recycling – as they would with packaging, batteries and electronic equipment. 

New recycling cost calculation basis 
Recycling rates will be set to incentivize the recyclability of materials, as well as reduction in material weight – in both packaging and non-packaging products. 

Changes to producer compliance options 
It is expected that the introduction of a central management authority would allow for the possibility to abolish the dual systems as a compliance option for producers. 

For producers currently complying through a dual system, i.e. being member of a packaging compliance scheme in Germany, this would mean possibly having to re-register and deal with the central authority directly. 

The local feedback 

Although the benchmarking document specifically states that these points are “open to further discussion”, the proposal has already been criticized - mostly by local authorities fearing that centralization would lead to a collection monopoly and allow producers to effectively regulate themselves. 

Dirk Asendorff from Die Zeit newspaper likewise expressed doubts over the expected increase in collected materials for recycling. Citing an early “test case” for non-packaging material collection in Berlin – he describes the recycling results as “crushing” – and not in a good way. 

In contrast, the Trade Association Germany (HDE) and The Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE) welcomed the proposal as a “milestone for the recycling law” and praised its “fair balance of private and communal requirements”. 

What happens next? 

The benchmarking proposal will develop into law in the coming months, as the German government prepares to draft the legislative text for review and consultation. We will keep you informed on the latest developments and their impact on your business and your compliance – watch this space! 

Concerned about how this may impact your company, or have a question about compliance in Germany? Simply get in touch with our specialists to find out more.

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