Is Germany's proposed law to fund SUP recovery a long overdue move or a bureaucratic monster?
Christian Preiser (Photo: PIE)
It all seems to be more or less done and dusted: a new law governing single-use plastics in Germany is now on its way (SUP fund act – see Plasteurope.com of 11.11.2022), and its regulatory ambition is certainly remarkable. The law seeks nothing less than to regulate “the market behaviour of packaging producers”. For a social market economy, this sounds like overreach by the government in Berlin.

The draft version currently passing through the legislative channels is more than 5,000 words long. For comparison, the Sermon on the Mount gets by with just about one-fifth of that. We all know that length is not necessarily synonymous with quality.

But to be sure there are no misunderstandings: the idea behind the SUP fund act is good. For years now, the take-away sector has been growing and blossoming with almost no regulation. Consumers love their coffee in plastic cups for out and about, and their hamburgers dished up in cardboard and plastic trays. The consequences are plain for everyone to see in overflowing waste bins and refuse strewn everywhere. Local authorities cannot keep pace with the clean-up work, and the costs for waste disposal are rising each year. The fool here is the taxpayer.

Legislators now want to put an end to this development. In accordance with the polluter pays principle, anyone who puts packaging made of single-use plastics into circulation is to pay a token amount, which is then transferred proportionally to communal disposal companies who collect the rubbish and take it away. Theoretically, this sounds great, but it remains to be seen whether the law will work in practice.

There can be no disputing the fact that it is long overdue for politicians to force people who foul the environment to pay for it. After all, why should the general public pay for the transgressions of a minority?

The fact that legislators have turned down an offer made by industry to organise the collection and distribution of the money is evidence of a basic mistrust between the state and industry. How justified is that? No idea. Germany’s Green Dot and the Duales System for collection and recycling have proved that self-commitment by industry can certainly work. The fact that the present government is evidently sceptical here shows the strength of the Social Democratic and Green parties and the weakness of the business-oriented Free Democrats in the Berlin’s current tripartite coalition.

Critics are castigating the planned law as an overregulated monster of bureaucracy spawned by a power-hungry, bloated, and overstaffed civil service apparatus. It is theoretically not necessary to pay much attention to such lobbyist nagging, but should it emerge that the new law serves to provide the state with additional income to deflect from its spending inefficiencies, such a realisation would be fatal and enduringly weaken the acceptance of all other sensible regulation plans in the plastics industry.

Christian Preiser, Editor-in-Chief, Kunststoff Information
17.11.2022 Plasteurope.com [251546-0]
Published on 17.11.2022

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Date of print: 28.11.2022 16:28:10   (Ref: 621599691)
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