Plastic reduction | Law | Germany

Reusable solutions become mandatory

In future, restaurants will have to offer reusable solutions for take-away meals in addition to disposable plastic tableware.
imago images / Panthermedia
In future, restaurants will have to offer reusable solutions for take-away meals in addition to disposable plastic tableware.

The Federal Cabinet has confirmed the push by Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) for the Packaging Act. According to this, restaurants will in future have to offer reusable containers for drinks and meals to take away.

The amendment, which has just been introduced by the Federal Cabinet Amendment to the packaging law specifically stipulates that restaurants must offer reusable containers for their take-away products from 2023. This change is based on a proposal by Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD).

"Throwaway plastic is still the rule in many restaurants, snack bars and cafés. My goal is for reusable boxes and reusable cups for on-the-go to become the new standard," Schulze said, according to media reports. The main aim of this step is to stem the tide of packaging in the to-go sector. However, businesses with less than 80 square meters of retail space will be exempt from the requirement, but not if they are outlets of larger brands. However, it should still be possible to hand out disposable cups.

According to the ministry, the reusable version may not be smaller or more expensive than the disposable packaging. Only a deposit may be added. In addition, the reusable containers must be taken back by the respective company after use.

"Exceptions from the deposit obligation are to exist forenterprises with less than 80 square meters surface, whereby stockrooms count to it. Food chains will also be counted as one business and not as a single store," it continues.

Criticism of the law

Criticism of the change comes from Dehoga, among others. Chief executive Ingrid Hartges, for example, said that this discussion comes at an "inopportune time". "We are in a situation in which our industry is fighting for survival," Hartges explained. Delivery and pick-up services are the only thing keeping the industry alive right now, she said. "The last thing the catering industry needs right now is the prospect of additional costs and documentation requirements," the Dehoga chief executive said.

Last November, the Bundesrat had already approved the ordinance banning certain single-use plastic products. The ban applies, for example, to cotton buds, cutlery, plates, drinking straws, stirrers and balloon sticks made of plastic, as well as to-go food containers, beverage cups and containers made of Styrofoam. The Bundestag and Bundesrat have approved the ordinance. It is due to come into force on 3 July 2021.
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