The new German Packaging Act is coming – and it’s particularly important for online retailers

As from 1 January 2019, the new German Packaging Act (VerpackG) will replace the current German Packaging Ordinance. For operators of small online shops selling on the German market, particularly, this will entail important questions and requirements regarding sales packaging and secondary packaging, transport packaging and packaging materials. But terms like “mandatory participation”, “mandatory registration” and the newly created “Central Packaging Registry” (Zentrale Stelle) need to be clarified. To enable you to stay on top of these issues surrounding the new law, we have summarized the most important information here.

First of all: the new German Packaging Act 2019 (VerpackG) applies to all distributors who put packaging into commercial circulation on the German market for the first time (referred to as “manufacturers”) – i.e. both for national producers and for importers, online dealers, etc. The act contains some new regulations and duties or their modification. We will be pleased to answer the questions of relevance for you:

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Obligation

What is „mandatory participation”?

If you are selling or otherwise putting into circulation goods via your online shop on the German market, you have to arrange for your sales packaging and secondary packaging to participate in a dual system. The latter will in return arrange for the collection and the recovery of the packaging after use. This is why you have to register your packaging for participation in a dual system (sometimes this is also called “licensing”). Make sure to choose a system with legal compliance in order to meet all the packaging requirements, for example by registering with Der Grüne Punkt, the biggest and most experienced system. 

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How does the obligation of „system participation” function?

You report the new registration number you have received from the Central Packaging Register with the dual system at which you register your packaging, e.g. Der Grüne Punkt. “System participation” for the years as from 2019 will run under this registration number. Important: Already today, your packaging is subject to mandatory participation under the currently applicable German Packaging Ordinance, of course – after all they are already being separately collected and recovered. You haven’t registered your packaging yet? Then use Registration with Der Grüne Punkt, for example.

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How do I have to report to the Central Packaging Registry?

Almost all the particulars you gave within the framework of your system participation with Der Grüne Punkt have to be communicated by you yourself directly to the Central Packaging Registry – at least:

  • Name, address and contact data of the manufacturer
  • Details of a natural person with powers of representation
  • National ID number of the manufacturer, including the European or national tax number of the manufacturer
  • Brand names under which the manufacturer is putting into circulation his packaging subject to mandatory system participation
  • Declaration that the manufacturer concerned is meeting his take-back duties by participating in a dual system such as Der Grüne Punkt
  • Declaration that the particulars given are true

Please note: You have to do this registration yourself and cannot delegate it e.g. to a service provider. Because for registration under § 9 VerpackG and for submitting data reports under § 10 VerpackG, no third parties may be commissioned (see § 33 VerpackG)!

Obligation

What is „mandatory registration”?

By the time the new law VerpackG comes into force at the latest, you also have to register with the new “Central Packaging Registry”– you have to do this before you dispatch anything to the German market for the first time. This is because you are definitely not permitted to put into circulation packaging not properly registered. The mandatory registration applies to corporations as well as small retailers. In order to be ready for the new packaging act 2019, the entry during the present year 2018 is advisable. You can apply for the requisite registration number in good time before 1 January 2019 under  www.verpackungsregister.org.

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Why does the German Packaging Act replace the packaging ordinance?

The main objective of the new German Packaging Act 2019 (VerpackG) is to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging waste on the environment. This is to be achieved by avoiding and recycling packaging waste. Especially the recycling quotas as defined in the packaging ordinance in 1991 are no longer up to date regarding the modern possibilities of packaging recovery and recycling.

The new Packaging Act 2019 is also intended to make retailers more responsible for promoting the use of eco-friendly and recyclable packaging.

However, the main reason why the German Packaging Ordinance (VerpackV) will be replaced by the new German Packaging Act (VerpackG) is another: the establishment of the Central Packaging Registry as an organizational and control institution for legally compliant distribution of packaging and its take-back as well as high-quality recycling.

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What is the purpose of these new duties?

Nowadays, far more packagings are separately collected and recovered than are actually being reported at the dual systems. There are various reasons for this. Many companies, particularly small ones, do not know their duties under the German Packaging Ordinance and the new German Packaging Act (VerpackG). With the new rules, though, it will be easier to identify which packagings have been registered (i.e. are participating in the dual system) and which haven’t.

The advantage is this: the more packaging participate in the dual system, the wider the financial base is – which means the costs are shared among more shoulders, rendering it more affordable for a single company. So in the long run everybody benefits.

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What is the remit of the Central Packaging Registry?

All the threads come together at the newly created foundation Central Packaging Registry, because it checks compliance with the obligations on the part of online retailers as well as on the part of the dual systems. It is an incorporated foundation under civil law, with a remit including the following tasks:

  • Registration of manufacturers before goods are first put into circulation
  • Receiving data reports from manufacturers and systems
  • Filing Declaration of Completeness
  • Maintaining a register of inspectors (expert appraisers, auditors, tax consultants, chartered accountants)

The Central Packaging Registry collects and manages the registration data of the manufacturers and the data on the quantities and types of packaging as well as the mass flow verifications that it receives from the systems. You will find further information about the Central Packaging Registry here: www.verpackungsregister.org.

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Declaration of Completeness

We’re nearly finished now. The systematized procedures for the Declaration of Completeness and the de-minimis limits (§11 Para. 4 VerpackG) remain the same. Whether you are obliged to submit a declaration of completeness depends on the quantities of packaging you put into circulation. You will be exempted from this duty if you have put into circulation less than 80 tons of mandatory-participation packaging made of glass, less than 50 tons of paper, board or cardboard and less than 30 tons of a different material. Thus, most companies will not have to submit a Declaration of Completeness.

There are, however, also the following new provisions, which you will have to keep an eye on:

  • The submission deadline for your Declaration of Completeness will be extended: instead of 1 May -> new 15 May (if your quantity of packaging is below the de-minimis limit, the extension is not relevant for you)
  • Your Declaration of Completeness may be checked only by registered expert appraisers, auditors, tax consultants or chartered accountants
  • Quantitative deductions due to damaged or unsaleable packaged goods that did not get as far as the consumer are possible only if both take-back for each individual case in verifiable form, and arrangements for recovery in accordance with the relevant recovery requirements are evidenced by appropriate documentation

The procedure for your registration in overview:

Here you can once again easily trace all the steps you have to keep in mind: 

The procedure for your registration
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Ambitious increase of recycling targets

The current legal minimum recycling targets have been increased in all material categories. The quotas of the new packaging law provide for an increase in two steps, initially from 2019 and in the second step from 2022. Modern technical possibilities make the recycling of large quantities of packaging possible – that is why they should also be used. The take-back system has to prove in the mass flow verification re-port once a year that these targets have been achieved.

Recycling targets
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What incentives are there to use ecologically advantageous, recyclable packaging?

Eco-friendly packaging is the future – Sustainability will become even more relevant, not only for the environment: the dual systems under the new German Packaging Act (VerpackG) are called upon to encourage packagings that are particularly recycling friendly or contain recyclates or renewable raw materials. This means that in the medium term calculation of the participation fees will be governed by ecological criteria.

Manufacturers and distributors also have a social responsibility and should therefore contribute to saving limited resources through sustainable packaging and recycling. Der Grüne Punkt can help in this! Even today, many packaging for transport or sales can already be designed to meet these criteria. Der Grüne Punkt will be pleased to assist you in regard to recycling-friendly design, product development, and optimization of your packaging, or will advise you on using high-quality recyclates.

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How will the mandatory deposit arrangements be extended?

The mandatory deposit arrangements, too, will once again be extended. Non-returnable beverage packaging of carbonated fruit and vegetable squashes and mixed drinks with a whey content of at least 50 percent may in future be sold only against a deposit of 25 cents. In addition, single-use and refillable beverage packaging must be clearly labelled with the respective category on the shelf in the supermarket in order to offer the end costumer more transparency at first glance. This should facilitate the conscious decision for refillable or single-use containers.

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