German drinks packaging deposit system ruled illegal

The European Court of Justice has ruled the German system of
mandatory return and deposit of drink packages illegal on the basis
that it imposes disproportionate trade restrictions on other EU
producers.

The mandatory German return and deposit scheme for non-reusable
drinks packages hinders the free movement of goods and has
therefore been ruled illegal as it affects mostly producers from
other EU member states, the European Court of Justice announced on
14 December.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the judgment now
“makes it clear on what terms Germany can require reusable
packaging without infringing single market rules”.

Under the German scheme, introduced in 2002, producers and
distributors have to charge consumers with a deposit on single-use
drinks packaging and accept the used packaging in
return.

But EU judges backed claims from French producers of mineral
water and the Commission, who said the scheme conflicted with
other EU rules that require mineral water to be bottled at the
source. This, they argued, creates additional transport costs
on foreign producers who make up for this disadvantage by using
single-use instead of reusable packaging.

The court said that producers and distributors were not
being given sufficient time to adapt. 

In a separate judgement, relating to other aspects of the German
deposit scheme, the court added that there should also be “a
sufficient number of return points so that consumer […] can recover
the deposit even if they do not go back to the initial place of
purchase”. Not enough of those were available, according to the
court.

The court ruling was welcomed by the Association of European
Producers of Steel for Packaging (APEAL) and by EUROPEN, the
European organisation for packaging and the environment.

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