The trend towards eating out has been around for a long time, but the corona lockdowns in gastronomy have accelerated it. This exacerbates the problem of the growing volume of packaging waste. Most recently, 18.9 million tons a year were produced here, which was almost 230 kilos per capita. Around half ended up in the waste incineration plants, barely 16 percent were processed into recyclate in Germany. Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) wants to get the problem under control with an amendment to the Packaging Act, which the Federal Cabinet initiated on Wednesday and which is to be decided by parliament before the summer break. The aim of the law is “that reusable boxes and cups become the new standard for on the go,” says Schulze.
According to the amendment, catering and delivery services have until 2023 to convert. Offering reusable alternatives will become mandatory, but customers can still opt for plastic cups or styrofoam trays. In addition, companies with an area of less than 80 square meters and a maximum of five employees are excluded. Reusable should not be more expensive, but a deposit is required. Furthermore, the one-way deposit obligation will be extended to all beverage cans and PET bottles from 2022. The latter must contain at least 25 percent recycled plastic from 2025, and 30 percent from 2030.
However, Schwarz-Rot did not act entirely voluntarily. On the one hand, it is becoming more and more difficult for Germany to get rid of the plastic waste problem through exports, as previous main customers are closing down. On the other hand, the government has to implement new EU plastic and waste regulations into German law. There is an urgent need for action to reduce the amount of waste and also to increase the recycling rate. The bill had already been presented at the end of November, but there was resistance from, among others, the Dehoga restaurant association. Ultimately, the plans were watered down.
This is also criticized by environmental associations, although they generally welcome the mandatory introduction of reusable packaging. The Nabu would also have liked buying incentives for consumers through tax breaks for environmentally friendly packaging. “Reusable should always be cheaper by law than the one-way variant,” says the association. Deutsche Umwelthilfe is even demanding an incentive tax of at least 20 cents for disposable tableware that is intended to be used specifically to promote reusable systems, and fears that there will be purely symbolic reusable offers.
Relief, however, at the association of municipal companies: The business model of the large fast food chains is now obsolete, allowing the city cleaners to remove disposable packaging in the area and thus pass the costs on to the general public.