7. March 2019

To what extend are the use, production and recycling of plastics legally regulated in Germany? UfU investigated this question for a world-wide study conducted by the UN Environment Programme and found that the answer is not simple.

Plastics are regulated by means of various instruments. Many of the regulations in place are based on voluntary participation and are not legally binding. An example for this is the voluntary agreement that sellers charge a fee on plastic bags. The return system for reusable bottles is also based on voluntary participation. In 2013, the government reached an agreement with the cosmetics industry on the voluntary abandonment of the use of microbeads in cosmetics.

There is a legally binding regulation for plastics appearing in the form of packaging waste. A revised version of the applicable piece of law entered into force this year, prescribing higher recycling quota than before. Packaging plastics are dealt with by dual systems such as „Der Grüne Punkt“ or are collected and recycled under the single-use bottle return system.

International comparison draws attention to the fact that there are no bans regarding plastics in Germany. More than 20% of the 127 participating countries have introduced bans regarding specific plastic products (such as plates, straws, etc.), plastic materials (e.g. polystyrene) or production levels.

This situation will change for Germany as of 2021 with the EU-wide prohibiton of various single-use plastic items. The respective EU directive will also introduce other measures, e.g. with regard to the reduction of plastics without alternatives.

For the full report of the study „Legal Limits on Single-Use Plastics and Microplastics: A Global Review of National Laws and Regulations“, please use the following link: https://www.unenvironment.org/es/node/24023