Germany will obligate catering to offer reusable packaging from Jan 1, 2023

Germany will obligate catering to offer reusable packaging from Jan 1, 2023 1920 768 flustix

New law aims to avoid take away packaging

The non-recyclable mountain of waste is huge: every hour in Germany, hundreds of thousands of plastic-coated coffee-to-go cups and takeaway trays with a high plastic content get emptied – after which they are thrown away and go straight into the incinerator. 13 billion pieces per year! From January 2023, a new law aims to curb just that: Germany-wide, the reusable offer duty for Take Away comes.

A quick smoothie on the drive to work, a sushi box in the lunch break or a pizza from the delivery service in the evening on the couch – almost everyone buys takeaway food from time to time because it is convenient and quick. The food and drinks are mostly offered in plastic-coated disposable containers made of composite materials. The lifespan of the packaging? Often just minutes. Then they end up in the residual waste. In Germany, 320,000 plastic-coated coffee cups and 520,000 meal boxes are thrown away every hour. That’s more than 120,000 tons of extra packaging waste per year: 4.5 billion bowls, 2.7 billion plates and 5.8 billion cups made of non-recyclable materials.

Mandatory offer for reusable containers from January 2023

From January 1, 2023, the reusable offer obligation will come into effect. With the amendment to the Packaging Act, bistros and cafés, restaurants, canteens or delivery services will be obliged to offer their take-away meals or to-go drinks in reusable containers as well. This is regulated by the law on the marketing, return and high-quality recycling of packaging (Packaging Act – VerpackG), sections 33 and 34.

Consumers can decide for themselves

How drastically the non-recyclable waste mountain can be reduced depends on the willingness of the customers. In concrete terms, the new law means that if a restaurant offers food in disposable packaging with a plastic content, it must also provide reusable packaging as an alternative from January.

The rules:

  • All establishments must display highly visible information about the new reusable packaging.
  • Food and beverages may not be more expensive in reusable packaging than in the disposable version.
  • Operators can charge deposits on containers and must also take back reusable packaging they dispense.
  • Somewhat woolly: If the food is already provided pre-packaged and not served individually according to customer preference, the reusable offer obligation does not apply.

Small businesses must accept brought-in containers

The new law applies to all establishments with more than 80 square meters of retail space and more than five employees. Smaller vendors do not have to provide reusable containers, but they have another obligation that will help reduce the waste problem: They must provide their food and beverages in cups and bowls brought in by customers if requested. The operators must also visibly point out this possibility of a very personal ” reusable system”. Of course, they then assume no responsibility for whether the customer containers are suitable for transporting the food.

If fast food fans keep their word, the reusable system law is likely to be a success. In a study conducted by the HEM service station chain with 2182 participants, 76 percent of those surveyed said they thought the mandatory reusable containers made sense and were willing to make a little extra effort to protect the environment. Only seven percent of respondents found a return system too burdensome. The study also found that just under a quarter of Germans consume drinks or food to go at least once a week. At the peak of the popularity scale are coffee or tea, sandwiches, baked goods, soft drinks or cocktails, followed by hamburgers, kebabs, sausages or French fries.

A chance for reusable deposit systems?

A reusable deposit system has already been successfully established in Germany. Munich-based reCup GmbH offers RECUP cups (three sizes) that can be used up to 1,000 times and REBOWL bowls (three sizes) that can withstand up to 500 rinses. Catering businesses simply lend the containers to their customers for 1 euro or 5 euros – and take them back again. More than 12,300 stations throughout Germany are already connected to the reusable system. With an app, interested parties can easily find dispensing and return stations in their vicinity.

flustix primarily certifies take-away products made of mono-materials without coating as plastic-free, e.g. coffee cups made of paper, which can be returned to the waste paper cycle after use and thus recycled. The SUPD (European Single-Use Plastic Directive) has shown that industry is very capable of quickly adapting products and acting in an environmentally friendly manner: Since the SUPD came into force, recyclable fiber mono materials have enjoyed very high demand in the to-go industry. Will the new reusable law ignite quickly?

In the end, it’s up to the to-go end consumers …

Image Credits: Adobe Stock | 347534490 | Rosekipik