Knowledge around the reusable duty

February 1, 2023

Since 01.01.2023, caterers have been obliged to offer reusable packaging as an alternative to disposable packaging for their takeaway food and beverages. The new packaging law passed in May 2021 and the resulting reusable obligation are intended to reduce the use of single-use plastic. The reusable alternatives must not be more expensive than single-use packaging. So if a restaurant offers reusable packaging for purchase at 5 euros and disposable packaging costs 20 cents, this would not be permissible. A deposit or a deposit-free system (like Vytal ;)) would, however, be a practical and, above all, sensible alternative.

Who is affected by the reusable packaging requirement?

Restaurants, bistros, cafés and delivery services that sell take-away food or to-go drinks are also obliged to offer their products in reusable packaging. Smaller stores (snack bars, late-night stores and kiosks) with a total of five employees or fewer and a store area of less than 80 square meters are exempt from the obligation. However, these businesses must also enable their customers to have their own reusable containers filled there. Catering chains (such as Backwerk, Subway, etc.) are excluded from the exception for small businesses, since more than five employees work in the entire company.

Which products are affected by the reusability requirement?

Only packaging made of plastic (e.g. plastic, Styrofoam) or packaging coated with plastic is affected by the reusable packaging requirement. These must be replaced by reusable packaging. However, this does not apply to packaging made of cardboard (e.g. for pizza) or disposable aluminum. Thus, you may continue to receive your pizza in cardboard boxes and not in our Pizzycles. Restaurants that use our Vytals are free to decide which packaging they want to replace.

Do you have to switch exclusively to reusable?

Reusables are only meant to be an alternative to disposables, so restaurants can continue to offer disposable packaging, but must also have reusables on site as an alternative.

However, the switch to exclusively reusable packaging is worthwhile for caterers, because since July 1, 2022, all caterers must register with the Lucid packaging register. Registration is mandatory, regardless of whether or not a system participation fee has to be paid. If food and beverages are served exclusively in vytal/reusable containers, then registration is sufficient. However, if disposable packaging is also filled, then a system participation agreement must be entered into and a fee paid, which is used as a participation fee for the disposal and recycling of this packaging. This diagram illustrates this once.

What are the consequences of not complying with the reusable packaging requirement?

If a restaurant does not comply with the Packaging Act, this represents a competitive advantage over competitors in the same market, because disposable packaging is often offered at a lower price. To enable fair competition, compliance with the reusable packaging law is therefore clearly monitored and violations are prosecuted under both administrative and civil law and punished with fines of up to 100,000 euros in accordance with Section 36 of the Packaging Act. The authorities of the respective federal states are responsible for checking whether the Reusable Packaging Act is being complied with by restaurateurs.

So if a restaurant doesn't yet offer a reusable alternative, feel free to recommend our system to them. Our "love letter" is always a good start to draw attention to us. 

But no matter which reusable packaging system your favorite restaurant chooses: It's a step in the right direction and towards a better future!

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