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Hong Kong E-Tailers Advised to Heed New German Packaging Law

Companies have just two months to comply with incoming, environmentally aware, regulatory and registration regime.

Photo: Software packaging: Online recycling registration imminently required.
Software packaging: Online recycling registration imminently required.
Photo: Software packaging: Online recycling registration imminently required.
Software packaging: Online recycling registration imminently required.

Online traders selling into Germany will have to comply with strict new packaging regulations as of 1 January next year. Under the terms of the 2019 German Packaging Act (VerpackG), all online operators – from such mega-beasts as Amazon down to specialist one-man bands – will be equally obliged to ensure the packaging of any items destined for delivery in Germany does not violate the terms of the Act, regardless of where the said item was initially posted.

Given the wide-ranging nature of the incoming legislation, it is expected to oblige a rethink on several packaging-related fronts. In particular, it will require a number of fundamental changes with regard to promotional packaging, secondary packaging, in-transport packaging and packaging materials in general. It has ramifications not only for e-commerce operators and distributors, however, as initial manufacturers of packaging material are also specifically obliged to comply with its terms.

The primary intent of the Act is to reduce the damaging environmental impact of packaging materials, a cause that has been taken to heart by many German consumers and state bodies. It plans to achieve this by minimising initial packaging levels and maximising subsequent recycling. In line with this, the new legislation stipulates far higher recycling quotas than those found in the previously prevailing Packaging Ordinance (1991).

While the upgraded requirements partly come in recognition of the vast improvements made to recycling technology in the past 27 years, they also form part of a wider shake-up of Germany's environmental-protection sector. To this end, a new body – the Central Packaging Registry – has been established to monitor and ensure compliance with the incoming recycling requirements.

All companies intending to continue to service the German market after January 1, 2019, will be obliged to register with the Central Packaging Registry. Any organisation that fails to do so will be in breach of the new regulations and is likely to be penalised and / or have any deliveries confiscated or blocked. In the first instance, companies can begin the registration process via the Registry's official website – www.verpackungsregister.org.

Part of the reason for the compulsory registration is that the new Act obliges any company dispatching packages to Germany to participate in one of the country's secondary packaging recycling schemes – secondary in that they are wholly funded by private businesses and run alongside any similar state-backed initiatives. The most well-established of these is Der Grüne Punkt (The Green Dot), which was launched in Germany in the early 1990s but has now become a Europe-wide initiative. Under the terms of the scheme, membership fees are paid in line with the volume of packaging any company produces / utilises in any given year.

Manufacturers and distributors in Hong Kong with interests in the German market are advised to familiarise themselves with these requirements and to complete the mandatory registration well before the 1 January, 2019, cut-off date. Further details on the new legislation (in English) can be found at www.verpackungsgesetz-info.de/en/.

Michael Katzmarck, Frankfurt Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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