They land in the oceans, destroy the environment and take centuries to degrade: plastic trash and packaging. But beginning in January 2019, new rules are in effect: A reform of the German packaging law aims to eliminate industrial waste and trash as much as possible. It requires businesses to do much more recycling – with glass, paper, cardboard and drink packaging and plastics. The trick is to develop sustainable packaging that ensures the safety of the food inside.
“We don’t just need to rethink how we do things at home, but in our companies too,’’ says Dr. Ralf Zink, Head of DMK Research and Development, adding that each German produces 220 kilograms of packaging waste per year. For DMK, this means: No more unnecessary waste, but a push for recyclable materials. Not only is the flow of milk and other dairy inputs important, but the materials ecosystem as well, which now has an increasing influence on the bottom line. At DMK, a team of developers has been working for several years on sustainability initiatives. In DMK’s Workplace Security and Environmental Management Department, there is also a focus on developing recycling solutions for packaging in production and warehousing.
“In the development of new materials, we want to avoid the use of plastic components, especially composites that are difficult or impossible to break down,’’ says Dörte Krumrey, the Central Coordinator for Environmental Protection, explaining DMK’s strategy. In the cheese packaging area, staff in the Workplace Security and Environmental Management unit are working on a recyclable system consisting of thin layers of a special plastic made of Mono-APET and PET/PE as well as multiple layer outer covering. Under this system, plastic waste can be converted by a recycler into new thin packaging film. “In addition, we are working on the reuse of Big Bags,’’ she says. “After a cleaning process, the bags could then be used again in the Industry Business Unit.’’ Then they wouldn’t have to be thrown away after a single use.
The department wants to create innovations that measurably reduce plastic waste – and not only for business reasons: “We all have to work together for a better world.’’
What is the New Packaging Law?
The law took effect in January 2019, when it replaced existing legislation and expanded the Plastic Strategy laid out by the European Commission. It applies to all companies that produce packaging which is collected and recycled under existing German recycling programs Gelbe Sack (Yellow Sack), Gelbe Tonne (Yellow Trash Can), Glass Recycling Containers and old Paper recycling. For product manufacturers and retailers, packaging is a big deal: Pickup and recycling is a billion-euro business.
What has changed?
Through 2022, quotas for recycling glass, old paper, ironbased metals and aluminium will rise successively from 60 to 75 and ultimately 90 percent. For drinks packaging, quotas will rise from 60 to 80 percent. For plastics, quotas rise from 36 to 63 percent.
Recycling companies will demand smaller pickup fees for environmentally friendly packaging materials – and higher fees for materials that aren’t.
A new central authority will monitor whether the new packaging law is being observed. Whoever brings packaging onto the market must now register and submit an annual report of activities – otherwise there will be warnings, fines and in severe cases, business shutdowns.
More Recyclable Packaging
Supermarkets and other stores must clearly post a sign on shelves where drinks are sold that gives consumers information on recyclable and non-recyclable packaging.