The Single-Use Plastics Directive was adopted in implementation of the requirements of the European Green Deal and in light of the Circular Economy Action Plan. As of 3 July 2021, the Directive had already been partially transposed into national law in Germany with the help of the Single-Use Plastic Ban Ordinance and the Single-Use Plastic Labeling Ordinance.
The Directive applies to single-use plastic items such as beverage cups, cutlery, cotton swabs and food packaging that are made of “plastic” in the terms of the Directive and are intended for single use. The list of products concerned is exhaustive and covers the single-use products most frequently found on Europe’s beaches. In Germany, the ban on the marketing of certain single-use items listed in the Annex (Part B), including cutlery, tableware, drinking straws and plates, has been implemented by the Single-Use Plastic Ban Ordinance. Products produced before 3 July 2021 may continue to be sold. In the event of a violation, a fine of up to EUR 100,000 may be imposed.
In parallel, the Single-Use Plastic Labeling Ordinance was issued in implementation of the labeling requirements contained in the Plastics Directive. According to this, products listed in the Annex (Part D) of the Directive, such as sanitary napkins, wet wipes, tobacco products and beverage cups, must be adequately labeled by the manufacturer either on the product itself or on its packaging because the single-use products mentioned are not accessible to any plastic-free alternative. The labeling should also include an indication that the article contains plastic and draw attention to the resulting negative environmental impact as well as the proper disposal of the product. The clearly visible and legible labeling consisting of a pictogram as well as the informative text “Product consists of plastic” must be affixed to the product as of 3 July 2021. Whether the pictogram is colourful or black and white depends on whether a product is made wholly or partially of plastic.
Furthermore, the Directive provides for extended manufacturer responsibility for certain products. Manufacturers are now required to pay for awareness activities to inform consumers about responsible use of these products, as well as disposal, transportation and treatment of the waste, for certain products such as feminine hygiene products, wet wipes and balloons.
With the draft of the Single-Use Plastics Fund Act of March this year (EWKFondsG‑E), the last part of the implementation will probably be completed at the start of 2023 with the end of the legislative process. Focus is also being placed on increased producer responsibility. The costs incurred for disposal and cleaning are to be shared by the manufacturers of the affected products. Affected manufacturers must pay into the newly established single-use plastic fund and register with the Federal Environmental Agency to calculate the single-use plastic levy, which depends on the amount of single-use plastic products provided and sold. This is intended to relieve the burden on public waste management authorities.
Since 3 July 2021, manufacturers have incurred considerable additional administrative and financial expenses to implement these new requirements for the environmentally compatible design of single-use plastic products. It is expected that the catalog of products covered will be expanded at the latest when the directive is reviewed in 2027.
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