New packaging law 2021: The changes

New packaging law 2021: The changes

As a trader, especially in the field of e-commerce, countless laws and regulations must be observed. Probably the most prominent example in recent years is the introduction of the new DSGVO, which caused turmoil and uncertainty in many companies. There is a similar amount of turmoil with the amendment to the Packaging Act, which came into force in July 2021.

In this article, we would like to shed light on the consequences of the amendment to the Packaging Act 2021 and, of course, answer the question of whether the Packaging Act 2021 is associated with any significant changes for your company. Before we get into the details, however, an important note in advance:

  • The new Packaging Act 2021 may be an important building block towards more environmental friendliness and recycling. However, when reading the law, it becomes clear that the legislator does not exactly contribute to more comprehensibility by using terms that have not been widely used so far. In addition, terms such as “consumer” are used in a context that differs from normal usage.
  • So don’t get confused if necessary and seek legal advice if you are unsure – that way you’re on the safe side!

In total, the new Packaging Act 2021 contains 38 §§, which are divided into seven sections. In order to give you as reliable an understanding of the terms as possible, we will first go into §§ 1-6 in the next section.

Packaging Act 2021: General provisions

In principle, the new Packaging Act 2021 is intended to help ensure that packaging is used in a way that conserves resources and is environmentally friendly. Even though environmentally conscious action is more important than ever, the Packaging Act 2021 does not exactly contribute to devoting oneself to this action with pleasure. Already the general regulations, which can be found in §§ 1 to 6 in the new Packaging Act 2021, have it all. We have briefly summarized the most important points of this section for you – they do not replace legal advice, of course:

  • Section 1 of the Packaging Act 2021 summarizes the waste management objectives of this law. It establishes product responsibility for packaging as defined by the Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act and pursues the goal of contributing to the collection of high-quality recyclables by collecting packaging waste close to households. The use of disposable packaging is to be reduced in favor of reusable solutions, thus achieving national and European environmental goals
  • Section 2 of the Packaging Act 2021 names all types of packaging as the scope of application and refers to §§ of the Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act that define rare exceptions.

The most extensive paragraph is § 3 Packaging Act 2021 “Definitions” and contains 20 paragraphs in which comprehensive definitions are made. In our view, the most important terms are as follows (a separate reading of § 3 Packaging Act 2021 is recommended):

  • Paragraph 1 defines packaging as a product made of any material in which a product is delivered by the manufacturer to the distributor and/or the end consumer. Among other things, a distinction is made between service packaging (coffee cups) and shipping packaging. Further examples of packaging can be found in Annex 1 of the new Packaging Act 2021.
  • In Paragraph 8, all packaging that typically accumulates as waste at the (private) end consumer as a result of use is deemed to be subject to system participation.
  • Paragraphs 10 and 11 define private final consumers as those who no longer resell packaged goods and dispose of them as expected. Private final consumers are equated with so-called comparable sources of waste (final recovery), which include restaurants, hotels, hospitals and cultural institutions.

Paragraphs 12 to 14 also contain important definitions:

  • A distributor is defined as a person who puts packaging into commercial circulation (Par. 12)
  • The final distributor is the person who delivers packaging to the final consumer (paragraph 13).
  • Manufacturer is the distributor who introduces packaging into commercial circulation for the first time and also the distributor who introduces packaging within the meaning of the Packaging Act 2021 for the first time (Par. 14).

On the other hand, § 4 “General requirements for packaging” is again much more comprehensible and states that “packaging is to be developed, manufactured and distributed in such a way” that the volume and mass is to be reduced as much as possible while guaranteeing safety and hygiene, is to be recyclable in principle, hazardous emissions are to be kept to a minimum during disposal and, in addition, the development of reusable packaging or packaging with a high recycling content is to be increased. Section 5 merely stipulates that packaging must not contain any hazardous pollutants, but this is already sufficiently regulated under other laws and ordinances.

In order to simplify recycling processes, Section 6 of the Packaging Act 2021 stipulates that packaging must be labeled according to its material. Which markings are required for which material can be found in Annex 5.

Practical obligations arising from the new Packaging Act 2021

The following paragraphs contain various obligations that have to be observed since the new Packaging Act 2021 came into force. We have also summarized these as briefly as possible for you, but in case of doubt we still recommend reading the law or seeking legal advice:

  • Manufacturers (note definition) of products subject to system participation must register (§ 7), unless a verifiable industry solution exists (§8)
  • Manufacturers are required to register with the central office before placing on the market (§9)
  • Manufacturers must submit a report of all packaging placed on the market for the first time by May 15 of each year (§11 – exceptions can be found in §12)
  • Sections 13 to 17 regulate the collection, return and recovery of packaging. For example, the return of packaging is obligatory and requirements must also be met with regard to recycling.
  • The other sections are less relevant for individual companies. Worth mentioning is, for example, § 24, which provides for the establishment of the foundation “Zentrale Stelle Verpackungsregister” for the implementation of the legal requirements.
  • Section 36 contains provisions for fines and section 38 transitional periods.

Further obligations in connection with the new Packaging Act 2021 will come into force gradually until 2025. The next relevant dates are initially January 1, 2022 and July 1, 2022 on which further regulations will come into force. It is therefore worth preparing for the future changes or, if in doubt, at least clarifying whether action is required.

ECL Kontor is an international logistics company established in 2004 with roots in customs clearance and transport organisation.


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