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Through the regulations maze

You may be aware of the Green Dot system. You might even think it confuses the recycling message because many people assume it is a recycling symbol (which it is not). But did you know that for more than a year, its use hasn’t even been compulsory in Germany, Where it was first introduced? Dieter Arning, who is a member of the board of German compliance scheme Landbell, was in London recently to explain to companies that export to Germany how they now need to comply with German packaging regulations.

I meet him after a workshop held by AHK, the German-British chamber of industry and commerce, where it was made clear that there was a lot of confusion among exporters about how to comply with German packaging regulations. Indeed, many believed that the Green Dot system still applies. Well, it does in many countries such as France, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria, but is no longer compulsory in Germany. Except it is still commonly used in Germany!

“We expect that the environmental laws in Germany will get stronger and stronger in the next few years”

This is because the Green Dot is now used as a symbol by some companies to show that they are complying with German law, although this is not necessary. Indeed, the Green Dot trademark is owned by compliance scheme Duales System Deutschland (DSD), and it is entirely possible for companies to register with a different German compliance scheme and still use the Green Dot. But using it is not compulsory. Some manufacturers are now in fact putting a ‘D’ with a cross through it to show that the Green Dot does not apply in Germany but only in countries that have adopted the scheme.

Landbell is one of the companies that is benefitting from this change to Germany’s packaging ordinance. “Landbell is one of nine compliance schemes in Germany,” says Arning. “Landbell was the company that broke the monopoly system in Germany in August 2003.”

Until that point, DSD was the only compliance scheme in Germany, and was accused of using its monopoly to keep charges high. This meant that manufacturers passed on their costs to retailers which, in turn, passed them on to customers. One of the reasons that the rules have been changed is that the Green Dot system was deemed to be inefficient at ensuring everybody complied.

“The compliance regulations changed on 1 January 2009,” says Arning. “This is because there was a gap between the number of companies that should have been licensed and those that actually were. There was a difference of between 25% and 30%. The German government wanted to close this gap because it isn’t right that the costs of processing 100% of the material were only covered by 70% of companies that actually paid for it.”

He believes that one of the inefficiencies of the Green Dot system was that many of the freeloaders actually displayed the Green Dot even if they were not compliant. Companies from Britain that export to Germany have to be compliant under these regulations because it is compulsory to be part of a compliance scheme if you export anything that contains packaging.

“British companies have to take part in a compliance scheme from the first sale,” he says. “Bigger companies that have a lot of material - for example 18 metric tonnes of glass packaging per year, 50 tonnes of paper packaging or 30 tonnes of plastic – also have to register with the DIHK [the German chamber of industry and commerce] on the Declaration of Completeness. This is because there are 4,500 companies that exceed these quantities and are responsible for 97% of the country’s packaging. Smaller companies do not have to register on the DIHK platform. But if the authorities ask them, they have to declare their compliance like the larger companies.”

The responsibility for packaging in Germany falls completely on the original producer. But when it comes to exports to Germany, the responsibility falls on the company that is legally responsible for the product when it crosses the border. This means, for example, that products that are transported on a cost, insurance and freight basis would be considered the responsibility of the exporter, while products delivered free on board would be considered the responsibility of the importer. The only proviso to this is that if the terms and conditions in a contractual arrangement put the responsibility on the other party, then that is allowed as long as evidence can be produced.

So far, there has been a reasonably light touch in the country in enforcing these new regulations, but Arning expects the authorities to get tougher. Having said that, he would prefer to see stronger enforcement: “We hope the authorities will improve the controls and actually check the evidence of compliance. Last year was the first year of the Declaration of Completeness, and now we understand that they intend to be much stronger in enforcing the regulations.”

Being a compliance scheme, Landbell can help UK companies comply with the legislation in Germany and more. “We can offer UK companies the exemption from the German packaging ordinance, but we can also offer a service for every country in Europe,” he says. “The main advantage we have for British producers is that we are cheaper and offer environmental advantages.”

As in the UK, Arning expects much more emphasis in Germany during the coming years in extending environmental regulations. Even though Germany is one of Europe’s top performers when it comes to recycling and waste management, he suggests that more can still be done, and this will require more legislation.

“We expect that the environmental laws in Germany will get stronger and stronger in the next few years. There are new battery regulations and different interpretations across the EU, and it will take time to harmonise regulations.”

DIETER ARNING CV

Dieter holds the responsibility for the export markets at Landbell and has been in the German packaging industry for 15 years. He has also been the managing director in various recycling companies, looking after operations including waste collections, treatment and recycling.

The best thing to happen in my career was…
“Joining Landbell. We broke the monopoly system with the support of the European Commission and that was very satisfying. As a company, I still feel we have a lot of potential.”

The worst thing to happen in my career was…
“The monopoly system was definitely the worst thing. We now have a much better and more stable system.”

 

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