Mandatory return system should be judged against EU rules on
packaging, not free trade says German Environment Minister
Responding to a Commission request for information, Germany on 6
January 2004 sent a detailed defence of its mandatory return system
for cans and bottles. In an October 2003 statement, the Commission
expressed its concerns that the German system might constitute "a
disproportionate barrier to the free movement of packaged beverages
from other Member States".
In a letter to the Commission, Germany's Environment Minister,
Jürgen Trittin, insists the system should be assessed against EU
laws on packaging, not rules on free movement of goods. He also
points out that the return scheme derives from a 1991 law on
packaging that received the Commission's approval, therefore
ensuring compliance with EU law.
Trittin says the potential trade disruptions caused by the rules
would only be minor ones given that five other EU countries have
already signed up to Germany's scheme. And even if disruptions did
occur, he argues that they would be entirely justified by the
environmental gains. He estimates that 1.2m tonnes a year less
waste would be generated due to the German mandatory deposit
The Commission will examine Germany's defence before deciding
whether or not to take any further action.