What is the purpose of the Packaging Law?
The new Packaging Law aims to reduce waste, increase the recycling rates of packaging materials and reduce environmental pollution. All those who generate packaging waste shall also be responsible for its disposal.
What obligations do you have as a shipper?
The Packaging Law contains two basic obligations that every company that places packaging on the market must comply with:
- System participation obligation: If you wish to continue sending parcels from 1st of January and thus place packaging on the market, you must also participate in its return via one or more dual systems (for example “Der Grüne Punkt”). Participation takes the form of a license fee. These dual systems form the organisational interface between shippers and public and private waste disposal companies. The dual systems are obliged to ensure that their packaging waste is collected and recycled regionwide and free of charge for the end consumer. Consequently, if you do not participate, you can also no longer put packaging into circulation.
- Registration obligation: In order for the license fee to be charged for participation in the dual system, you must register with the “Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister” (central office for packaging registration) by 1st of January. If you are not registered, you can no longer circulate packaging that is subject to system participation from January onwards. Anyone who does, however, can expect severe fines of up to 200,000 euros: regardless of whether it is a small mail-order company or a large e-commerce shop. The license fee amount depends on the total weight and type of packaging material you place on the market. You must then forward this data to the dual system and the central office for the following year.
What types of packaging are subject to system participation?
In simplified terms, all packaging that accumulates at the end consumer is subject to system participation, including adhesive tape, labels, packing material, product and outer packaging as well as shipping cartons. Whether cardboard, plastic or glass, basically any material can serve as packaging. Detailed information on the criteria and special cases can be found in Annex 1 to the Packaging Law.
Who must license which packaging?
Each packaging must only be licensed once - by the person who places it on the market for the first time. If the manufacturer of a product has already licensed the product packaging, the shipper no longer has to do so. He then only has to license the packaging material for shipment to the end customer.
How is the total weight of packaging placed on the market calculated?
By January 1st 2019, shippers must notify the central office for packaging registration of the various packaging materials and the expected quantities that will be placed on the market for the following year. The quantities must be listed separately from each other in the form of the total weight. But how exactly do you calculate this total weight for your e-commerce company? And how do you take fluctuations into account?
To do this, you estimate the expected quantities per packaging material - for example on the basis of sales figures from previous years. Ideally, you will receive information about the respective total weight directly from the manufacturer or supplier of your packaging. If this is not possible, you should know or estimate the individual weight per packaging unit and extrapolate it to the total quantity accordingly. Alternatively, you can find a range of calculation aids and information on standard packaging (for example Lizensero or Landbell) online.
At the end of each year, you check the data obtained this way against the quantities actually put into circulation. You can then make the updated year-end closing quantity declaration available to your dual system and the central office.
What other obligations must e-commerce merchants fulfil?
Mail order companies who exceed certain quantities of packaging material subject to participation have to submit a detailed declaration of completeness in addition to the estimation and annual declaration of quantities. They are obliged to do so when they place more than 80 tonnes of glass packaging, more than 50 tonnes of paper, cardboard or paperboard or more than 30 tonnes of other material on the market each year. The detailed declaration of completeness must then be submitted by May 15th each year and include a list of all sales and outer packaging put into circulation for the first time that year. However, small and medium-sized mail order and e-commerce companies should not normally expect to reach this threshold.
The implementation of the Packaging Law should not be a rocket science. If you reliably track the quantities put into circulation throughout the year, you will quickly and easily fulfill your obligations.