CIRCULAR ECONOMY
German federal cabinet approves law to set up a single-use plastics fund / Trade associations criticise unnecessary bureaucratic costs
These images are supposed to be a thing of the past soon – thanks to the single-use plastics fund act (Photo: Pexels, Ron Lach)
Last week, the German federal government decided that manufacturers of products made of single-use plastics (SUP) will have to contribute to the cost of waste removal in parks and streets going forward. According to the SUP fund act (EWK-Gesetz), manufacturers will pay an annual levy from 2025 onwards into a central fund administered by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA, Dessau; www.uba.de).

The amount of the levy is based on the type and quantity of the products that they have previously placed on the market. Among other things, municipalities can receive money from the fund to pay for their waste disposal. Relevant products include, for example, tobacco products with filters containing plastic, beverage containers and cups, and takeaway food containers.

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“Cigarette butts, bottles, takeaway cups, and disposable food containers end up in the environment far too often and are an expression of the pollution crisis,” said Germany’s environment minister Steffi Lemke. “The cost of cleaning up and disposing of carelessly discarded throwaway plastics has so far been borne by the general public, but that is set to change. Not throwaway plastics, but reusable should become the new standard.”

Manufacturers will first have to pay the levy for products made of single-use plastics placed on the market in spring 2025, on the basis of the volume of products placed on the market in the 2024 calendar year. The concrete amount of the levy rates as well as the system for distributing payments to the municipalities are to be determined soon by a legal ordinance. The necessary data pool for this is currently being determined by a research project commissioned by the UBA. According to initial estimates, the fund’s revenues will be up to EUR 450 mn annually.
Trade associations criticise unnecessary bureaucratic costs
Saying that the decision on this special levy comes at an inopportune time because the German economy is currently busy trying to maintain operations despite skyrocketing energy prices, several trade associations criticised the cabinet decision in a joint statement, adding that the decision contradicts the “moratorium on burdens” resolved by the federal government at the end of September in order to avoid disproportionate bureaucracy in the current crisis and should therefore be put on hold.

However, it is not just the timing of the proposal that is criticised, but also its content. In order to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic costs for companies when implementing the EU requirements, seven trade associations had already submitted a proposal for a private sector implementation of expanded producer responsibility in March 2021.

“Our proposal places a much lighter burden on businesses because – as in other EU member states – implementation is placed in the hands of the affected economic sectors,” said Antje Gerstein, managing director of the German retail association Handelsverband Deutschland (HDE, Berlin; www.einzelhandel.de). In contrast to the planned special levy, the private sector model would not require 30 new positions at the Federal Environment Agency because the registration could largely build on the existing data of the Central Agency Packaging Register.

Business representatives also have limited understanding of the fact that the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUV) and the Federal Environment Agency want to play a central role in the implementation of the law.

“The EU rules stipulate that the costs are to be established ‘between the actors concerned’, i.e. between industry and local authorities,” explained Martin Engelmann, chief executive of German plastics packaging association Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen (IK, Bad Homburg; www.kunststoffverpackungen.de). “Under the current proposal, however, the costs are to be established solely by the Ministry for Environment. And the UBA is supposed to be able to determine who should pay for what. This no longer has anything to do with the principle of producer responsibility.”

There is also criticism of the lack of an exemption for non-returnable beverage bottles that are subject to a deposit. “In Germany, an effective deposit system ensures that the risk of littering from plastic beverage bottles is reduced. Nevertheless, bottles with deposits are also supposed to be subject to a special levy,” complained Peter Feller, deputy managing director of the Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE, Berlin; www.bve-online.de).

The SUP fund act must now be passed by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The associated legal ordinance that, among other things, sets the levy rates is currently being prepared at the BMUV. The act transposes Article 8 of the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive into national law.
11.11.2022 Plasteurope.com [251501-0]
Published on 11.11.2022
Kreislaufwirtschaft: Gesetz zum Aufbau eines Einwegkunststofffonds beschlossenGerman version of this article...

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