Plastic bags and packaging should be banned

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What will change with the amended Packaging Act?

From the beginning of 2022, retailers will no longer be allowed to give out lightweight plastic carrier bags to their customers. with a wall thickness of 15 to 50 micrometers. A violation of the prohibition should be punishable as an administrative offense with fines. The new regulation is to come into force on January 1, 2022.

Exceptions are particularly light plastic carrier bags with a wall thickness of less than 15 micrometers. This includes, in particular, so-called "shirt bags" or "knot bags" that customers use to transport fruit and vegetables that are offered in pieces.

Why is there no general ban on plastic bags?

The very thin "shirt bags" are still allowed. The relevant EU directive provides for exceptions for these bags with a wall thickness of less than 15 micrometers. They serve the hygienic handling of bought fruit or vegetables and prevent food waste. In addition, a ban on these bags could motivate manufacturers to package more products in plastic as standard. In addition, there are hardly any environmentally friendly alternatives. The Federal Government is pursuing the approach that less packaging is used overall.

How has plastic consumption developed?

An agreement with retailers has been in place since 2016 to only offer plastic carrier bags against payment. Since then, consumers have been using less and less plastic bags. Consumption has decreased by more than 60 percent since 2015. Germans still use around 18 bags per capita per year - a total of around 1.49 billion bags, according to the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU).

According to the Federal Environment Agency, packaging consumption in Germany is still too high. Disposable tableware and "to-go" plastic packaging play a large part in this. According to the BMU, around 320,000 disposable cups are used every hour in Germany - of which up to 140,000 are "to-go" cups. According to the Federal Environment Agency, the amount of plastic waste increased by 3.9 percent to 6.15 million tons between 2015 and 2017.

What is the federal government doing to reduce the amount of plastic waste?

At the beginning of 2019, the Packaging Act came into force to reduce packaging waste and strengthen recycling. The recycling rates have increased significantly as a result. Manufacturers who use recyclable packaging and plastics are rewarded for this. The law also stipulates that single-use or returnable bottles must be better marked to make it easier for consumers to decide to avoid unnecessary plastic and to buy recyclable products.

From July 2021, disposable plastic products such as single-use cutlery, cotton swabs, straws and stir sticks will be banned. The sale of to-go cups and disposable containers made of Styrofoam will also no longer be allowed. The corresponding ordinance is to come into force on July 3, 2021.

In addition, manufacturers and retailers now have to contribute to the cleaning costs for disposing of disposable waste in parks and on streets. Up until now, the cleaning costs have been paid for by the citizens alone through communal fees. The law implementing the EU Waste Framework Directive came into force on October 29, 2020.