German Bundesrat postpones vote on packaging waste law

Debate on controversial amendment to German packaging waste postponed by Bundesrat

Most CDU-led regions (Länder) were opposed to Trittin's amendment. The Nordrhein-Westphalia region had asked for the debate to be postponed.

In a first reaction, environment minister Trittin stated that he was confident that the amendment will pass in July. He also pointed to the fact that, if the vote is negative, the provisions foreseen in a former CDU-FDP law would actually kick in and would have nearly the same result.

German and European packaging industry federations have warned against the compulsory deposit system and the distinction of packaging in ecologically friendly and ecologically harmful packaging. Industry has pointed to the high investment costs needed if this amendment would become law (estimate range from 3 billion-4 billion DM). The packaging industry is also concerned that these proposals do not comply with the EU's packaging and packaging waste directive.

Steel packaging industry body APEAL recently sent its comments on Germany's plans to the Commission's services saying that the proposed legislation "infringes fundamental legal principles and should be examined in the light of the infringement procedure concerning the German Packaging Ordinance".

The main objections of the steel packaging federation are:

  • The requirements and objectives of the Packaging and Packaging Waste directive have been more than fulfilled (e.g. recycling of steel for packaging is higher than 80 percent)
  • the distinction in "ecologically favourable" and "unfavourable" packaging can not be accepted, because the life cycle analysis on which this distinction was based, was partial and arbitrary. Moreover, "LCA should be used in an appropriate manner as a tool for continuous environmental improvement of all packaging systems by the packaging material producers and the packaging industry, and not misused by governments by drafting legislation based on LCAs".

The German deposit proposal has also been opposed by 5 Member States including France, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy and the UK. However, Trittin received support for his proposals from environmental movements in Germany and from the European Environmental Bureau.

 

The German Bundesrat postponed the debate on an amendment to its packaging waste law on Friday 22 June. The amendment to the 1991 Packaging Ordinance ("Verpackungsverordnung") will now be discussed on 13 July. German environment minister Trittin said he was convinced the new law will pass in July. The outcome of this vote could have implications for the EU's review of the packaging and packaging waste directive.

 

On 2 May 2001, the German federal government adopted an amendment to the 1991 Packaging Ordinance. The amendment introduces, from 1 January 2002, a compulsory deposit on all ecologically disadvantageous packaging. A deposit of 0.25 Euro (0.50 Euro for a net volume exceeding 1.5 litres) will then be imposed on drinks cans, disposable glass bottles and disposable plastic bottles (PET), which will be reimbursed on return. Wine bottles are exempt.

The proposed amendment was introduced by German environment minister Trittin in response to a requirement under the current packaging legislation for a compulsory deposit on certain drink types when the percentage of reusable beverage packaging falls below 72 percent for 2 consecutive years. The definition of environmentally damaging and environmentally friendly packaging was the result of a life cycle analysis undertaken by the German Environment Agency in August 2000.

 

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