The German Packaging Act: Key facts about the new legislation
The Packaging Act (VerpackG) entered into force in Germany on 1 January 2019. The new law replaces the old Packaging Ordinance while also introducing a number of key changes. The Act affects all companies that are initial sellers of packaging intended for consumers in Germany or are the first to import such packaging into German territory. What do companies need to know if they intend to ship their goods to Germany? And what are the changes in the law compared with the old Packaging Ordinance? We provide you with a summary of the key changes introduced by the German Packaging Law (VerpackG).
The online retail sector is booming. A seemingly endless number of online retailers now offer products over the web and send their goods throughout Europe or even worldwide. While this type of retail is immensely successful, and makes shopping easier and simpler for the consumer, there are also some negative aspects to this phenomenon. Above all, online retailers are creating a growing mountain of packaging and secondary packaging materials that presents waste management with a whole new set of challenges.
This is one reason why the new Packaging Act adopted by the German government is much tougher than the Packaging Ordinance that was in force before it. The new legislation aims to create incentives to avoid packaging waste while also ensuring that responsibilities for the packaging waste created are assigned more clearly and with greater fairness. The new Act requires companies based in Germany and elsewhere to participate in the waste management process and, importantly, to pay their share of the costs incurred. As a federal environment agency the newly created Central Agency Packaging Register (ZSVR/Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister) has been set up to improve the monitoring of compliance with the new law. An open-access database managed by this body, LUCID, also gives customers and competitors a quick way of finding out whether a company is obeying the law. Infringements can be punished by legal warnings, sales bans or heavy fines.
Changes introduced by the 2019 Packaging Act at a glance
- Establishment of the Central Agency Packaging Register (ZSVR) and its associated LUCID database
- Introduction of mandatory registration (Section 9 VerpackG) with the ZSVR
- Mandatory data reports (Section 10 VerpackG) to the ZSVR
- A significant increase in recycling targets for packaging waste
Update: The first amendment to the German Packaging Act has been in force since 03 July 2021. The amendment changes affect, among others, online retailers who use the services of fulfilment service providers and electronic marketplaces. Find out about all the important changes in our blog post on the amendment of the German Packaging Act.
The Packaging Act also applies to companies not based in Germany
Online retailers based in Europe or elsewhere that ship their goods to consumers in Germany must also ensure they comply with the new law. This is because the new Packaging Law also applies explicitly to international retailers who intend to sell their goods in sales packaging (i.e. mail-order/product packaging) to Germany. Also in this case Lizenzero ist your solution partner.
Note: If retailers send their packaged goods to other destinations than Germany the German Packaging Law doesn’t apply to them. But there are individual obligations in the most destination countries that should be fulfilled. If you want to know more about these obligations in Austria, Italy, Poland, Croatia or Slovenia please click the right link.
Who is affected by the Packaging Act?
The new German Packaging Law applies to all trading businesses who place packaging on the market as initial distributors and who ship this packaging to consumers in Germany. The provisions of the Act also apply to companies importing packaging into the territory covered by the Act from a third country (i.e. outside Germany).
Accordingly, a packaging item is subject to the Act as soon as it is imported into Germany from abroad. In this case, the law always applies to the entity responsible for the goods and packaging as they cross the border into Germany. In most cases, this entity will be the importer of the goods. However, the specific responsibilities should be set out in a contract agreed between the parties involved in importing the goods.
If a dealer sells goods directly to German consumers, thereby cutting out the “middle man”, this dealer is then affected directly by the provisions of the Act and must comply in full with the law in order to ensure that the goods (and their associated packaging) are being shipped to Germany legally.
In both cases – whether using an importer or shipping directly from abroad – the requirement to license packaging applies to all packaging imported. In most cases, this therefore includes both the product packaging and the mail-order packaging.
One of the most important duties for affected dealers is the requirement to register with the Central Agency Packaging Register (ZSVR). The dealer must also participate in a “dual system” in Germany and pre-license each piece of packaging that is shipped to Germany.
This packaging license can be acquired directly by visiting Lizenzero.de.
Summary: What you need to do now as a dealer subject to licensing
- You need to register your company online in the LUCID database managed by the newly created Central Agency Packaging Register.
- The Central Agency Packaging Register will issue you with the registration number you need for the next steps.
- Following this, you then sign a licence contract with a dual system in Germany like Interseroh (Lizenzero.de) based on the annual volume of packaging that you import into German territory. This requires payment of a variable “licence fee” that is charged based on the quantity and type of packaging that you place on the German market. Tip: Use our Calculation Wizard to work out the volume of your packaging materials by entering the number of packaging items: the Wizard then outputs the weight in kg for each packaging material.
- To participate in a dual system, you also use the registration number issued to you by the Central Agency Packaging Register.
- To complete the process, you give the Central Agency Packaging Register the details of your dual system and registered packaging volume.
What kinds of packaging need to be licensed?
The requirement to license packaging affects packaging made from any material that is used as sales packaging for goods and which is handed to consumers, who ultimately dispose of this packaging. This includes mail-order packaging, including filling/padding materials, as well as product packaging. The material from which the packaging is made is not relevant: whether this material is cardboard, paperboard, paper, metal, plastic, cotton, wood, rubber, copper, ceramic or cork, each and every one of thesepackaging materials must be declared. The provisions of the Act also apply from the very first item of packaging placed on the German market: the law does not specify a minimum volume.
German Packaging Act: Failure to comply can be punished with legal warnings and fines
One of the most important changes ushered in by the new law is that violations are easier to discover and subject to much harsher penalties. If the companies affected by the law do not remain compliant, they risk being the subject of legal warnings or heavy fines. The same applies to shippers who send goods to Germany from abroad. Importantly, the LUCID database managed by the ZSVR is an open-access resource. This enables customers and competitors to report businesses to the Central Agency Packaging Register if they are found to be in violation of the new law. Anyone acting as an initial distributor of packaging who is not registered runs the risk of facing severe penalties. A violation of the new law constitutes a regulatory infringement that can be penalised by the levying of fines up to EUR 200,000. Sales bans may be imposed and legal warnings may also be issued.
Dealers shipping to Germany from other countries must also take action
The new Packaging Law does not just affect dealers within Germany who act as initial distributors shipping packaging to end consumers. Companies based outside Germany who ship to consumers in Germany are also affected by the new legislation. While companies who ship exclusively B2B to an intermediary may not be affected, they should nonetheless check to see if they need to license packaging or ensure they are contractually covered. Ultimately, the new Act creates a clear-cut framework for the shipping of sales packaging that not only improves transparency but also aims to ensure that the initial distributors of packaging bear their fair share of the costs for its disposal and recycling.