Sending goods to German customers? Stick to the German Packaging Act!
The to-go mentality, online shopping boom or even single household goods - these and other trends nowadays cause packaging waste to rise continuously. In order to increase the recycling rates of packaging waste and thus take a step towards environmental protection, Germany enacted the Packaging Act (VerpackG) on 1 January 2019.
Since then, all companies that place sales packaging on the German market must comply with the obligations of the VerpackG. Therefore, international companies that ship their products to German customers are also affected. This article takes a closer look at what you need to know if you ship goods to or within Germany.
Who is affected in general?
According to the VerpackG, each ‘initial distributor’ of packaging is impacted by the VerpackG. Every company that places goods in sales packaging for the first time, imports them into Germany and sends them to German end users or sells them within Germany has to comply with the VerpackG’s obligations.
Even very small businesses that send only a few packages a year must stick to the VerpackG - because the obligations must be implemented before the first packaging is put into circulation.
Why are you as an exporter affected?
If you as a company sell goods to German customers and then ship them to Germany, you fill sales packaging with the goods for the first time. This packaging finally ends up at the German private end consumer, who disposes it via his household waste. Since the packaging waste is generated in Germany and is collected, sorted, and recycled by a German dual system, you, as the exporter, must bear part of the costs for these disposal and recycling processes. This is done through the packaging licensing in which you pay a license fee to a dual system (Obligation 2 of the VerpackG).
International retailers should clarify in advance who is responsible for the goods when crossing the border. This company must then fulfil all legal obligations arising from the Packaging Act. Normally the exporter is responsible, although the parties involved should clearly define in a contract who is the responsible party.
What kind of packaging needs to be licensed?
All types of packaging, which will ultimately end up at a German household und will be disposed by them must be licensed. The term “sales packaging” used in the VerpackG includes packaging, that protects the product (= Product packaging), plus packaging, that is used to ship the product including all filling and cushioning materials (= shipment packaging) and packaging, that is used for the delivery of the product (= service packaging, mostly used in stationary trading).
Besides the types of packaging, it does not matter what material the packaging consists of – all materials, which typically end up at a German household, need to be licenced: Whether it is cardboard, plastic or glass!
What exactly do I need to do?
As the initial distributor of sales packaging, companies must fulfil a total of three obligations in order to act in conformity with the VerpackG - and this before the first packaging is put into circulation.
- Registration: The Central Packaging Register Office (ZSVR), which acts as the control body of the VerpackG, has introduced the LUCID Packaging Register. Every company that puts sales packaging into circulation must register in LUCID with details of the company data.
After a successful registration the company can be found in the publicly accessible database LUCID and receives a registration number by e-mail, which must be indicated in the dual system (see obligation 2).
- System participation: All sales packaging that a company puts into circulation in a year must be licensed with a dual system (e.g. with Interseroh through the Lizenzero online shop) by paying a "licence fee". Through this participation in the dual system, the company contributes to the professional collection, sorting and recycling of its packaging.
- Data reporting: Finally, the licensed packaging quantities per material type and the name of the dual system must be reported to LUCID.
Note: As the details provided to the Central Agency and those in the dual system will be compared, these should always be consistent.
What happens if a company violates the VerpackG?
If a company does not fulfil the obligations of the VerpackG at all, only partly or not correctly, it may be threatened with heavy sanctions. These penalties can range from written warnings to fines of up to EUR 200,000 or even sales bans.
In summer 2019, the Central Packaging Register Office took action against the companies concerned. On March 19th in 2020 it published a case study to illustrate the consequences of non-compliance. Further case studies will follow.
Take action now
The German Packaging Act was created to increase the recycling rates for the growing flood of packaging waste and to motivate companies to be more sustainable in taking responsibility for their products. All companies that send packaging to German consumers are affected by the Packaging Act, including companies that export goods to Germany. Compliance with the obligations is absolutely necessary - or one runs the risk of having to face heavy penalties.