German government sets out plan to reduce plastic waste

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Photo by BMU/Sascha Hilgers German environment minister Svenja Schulze presenting the 5-point plan

Germany has introduced a 5-point plan to combat the looming plastic waste problem, in a bid to make the country less of a “throwaway society”.

In an action plan announced 26 Nov, the German environment ministry said it was aiming a “turnaround from more and more to less and less waste” with regards to packaging and short-lived items.

The blueprint, which aims to make consumption more sustainable in Germany “and possibly also in Europe”, will target unnecessary products and packaging and would place a ban “if necessary”. These will include disposable products, but also to consciously used microplastics in cosmetics. 

Additionally, under the new plan, companies will be encouraged to make their packaging more environmentally friendly and increase the role of reusable packaging. The new German packaging law will play a role here, with the new licensing rules which will incur larger fees on less environmentally friendly packaging.

Moreover, under the new packaging law, with more plastic packaging required to be recycled, the number of recycling stations will also be expanded. The German government plans to increase plastic recycling targets from the present 36% to 63% by 2022.

Another area targeted by the action plan is the quality of biowaste in the country. By encouraging the nation to separate their waste more carefully, the quality of the compost produced could be considerably improved.

The final point of the plan will focus on increasing Germany’s international efforts to fight marine litter. As part of this, the country will increase its aid donations to for the cause, particularly to clean up the 10 rivers that are thought to account for 90% of the plastic waste in the world's seas. This will include a €50m investment in a technology that cleans sea waste.

The action plan has been announced in anticipation of the new German packaging act, which will come into force at the beginning of 2019.

The new act aims to improve the existing law on packaging by focusing on recycling and the prevention of packaging waste. As part of the new law, an impartial central office will be set up to check that all sales packaging placed on the German market is licensed properly. This will be enforced by requiring that all businesses active on the German market register with the new central packaging registry.

In addition to a 63% plastics recycling target, a 90% recycling rate has been set for metal, glass, and paper and board by 2022. The act will also encourage reusable packaging, setting a goal for reusable beverage packaging of 70%.

The German government will offer incentives for packaging producers to incorporate recyclability considerations into packaging design.

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