Germany is nearing the approval of a law charging manufacturers a levy for the cost of collection, cleaning and disposal of single-use plastic.
From next year, the cost of cleaning public spaces could be passed on to corporations rather than local councils following a law passed by the Bundestag, Germany’s elected federal parliament, on Thursday (2 March).
The draft single-use plastics fund act dictates manufacturers of items including plastic cups, bottles and crisp packets should contribute to a state fund. The fund’s annual income is expected to be up to EUR450m (US$478.3m).
Administered by the Federal Environment Agency, Umweltbundesamt (UBA), the fund will be available to local authorities to go towards rubbish collection and cleaning costs, as well as “awareness-raising measures”.
Cities and municipalities incur costs of up to EUR434m per year for collection and cleaning, according to a UBA study.
The legislation proposes manufacturers start to pay the levy from spring 2025 based on the type and quantity of products sold in 2024.
The German Retail Federation said it was difficult to estimate what total costs to businesses would be due to “the still unclear definition of the term ‘manufacturer’.”
Having passed the Bundestag, the law will now pass to the Bundesrat (federal council) for approval. It is set to discuss the draft on 31 March.
The act was proposed in November last year. At the time, Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said: “Cigarette butts, bottles, to-go cups and disposable food containers unfortunately end up far too often on roadsides, in our parks and forests and are a reflection of the litter crisis.
“With the new law, we are counteracting the waste of resources and environmental pollution and at the same time relieving the burden on cities and municipalities.
“Reusable plastic, not throwaway plastic, is to become the new standard.”
UBA president Dirk Messner said: “We expect the new levy on single-use plastics to finally put a stop to littering of the environment and that manufacturers and retailers will offer significantly more reusable packaging, especially for popular to-go packaging.
“Consumers can also help by insisting on reusable packaging when shopping and stop discarding cigarette butts and other plastic waste in the landscape.”
It comes as last month Danone was taken to court in France by three environmental groups over its use of plastic across the supply chain. Environmental campaigners said the case was “only the beginning” of litigation against consumer goods giants over plastic.