Anyone who buys food to go is now entitled to reusable packaging from many suppliers. But there are problems with the implementation, say environmental groups – and insist on penalties for violations.
Environmental organizations complain that the new obligation to offer reusable food in the hospitality industry has only been implemented incompletely and are increasing the pressure on the industry: Greenpeace is planning an information portal on which customers can report companies that, despite the obligation, do not offer any reusable packaging for drinks or to-go food, such as Viola Wohlgemuth from Greenpeace told the German Press Agency in Berlin.
On the basis of test purchases, the German Environmental Aid also speaks of violations by large providers, against whom legal action is to be taken. The hospitality industry meanwhile refers to high burdens for the companies.
Dehoga complains about “organizational and logistical effort”
“The new multi-way offer obligation is associated with considerable organizational and logistical effort for the companies,” explained the general manager of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga), Ingrid Hartges. In order to be able to offer food in reusable containers in a hygienically safe manner, structural and technical requirements would have to be created. “All this is associated with new costs” – at a time that is already challenging for the industry. In addition, the providers registered “obviously no significant increase in demand” from customers for the reusable variants.
The German environmental aid does not want to accept such arguments, especially since the industry has had enough time to prepare. This Thursday she wants to present the results of her own research at 16 large catering chains, “including branches of system catering, retail, bakeries, cafes and cinemas,” as the association announced.
“Even large catering chains refuse to offer reusable alternatives – despite sufficient lead time and available resources.” This can now also be substantiated with court-proof evidence. When the regulations came into force, environmental aid had already complained that they threatened to come to nothing in their current form.
Fines of up to 10,000 euros
Since the beginning of the year, restaurants, bistros and cafés that sell food on the go have had to offer reusable packaging in addition to disposable packaging – provided they use disposable plastic packaging. There must be a reusable alternative for drinks of all kinds. Exceptions apply to smaller shops that are no larger than 80 square meters and have a maximum of five employees. There, however, customers must be given the opportunity to have their own containers filled. Violations can result in fines of up to 10,000 euros.
Greenpeace expert Wohlgemuth also insists on enforcement of the regulations by the competent state authorities – with criminal prosecution in the event of violations. The information portal should be available in March and also show violations of the law that Greenpeace had identified as part of its own test purchases.
According to Wohlgemuth, what is needed is a “statutory reusable packaging requirement, regardless of the material”. In order for this to work, consumers would have to be able to return the containers to any gastro establishment or vending machine throughout Germany via a uniform pool system, similar to commercially available glass mineral water bottles.
cycle as a concept
The Reusable To-Go initiative wants to show in the Rhine-Main area that this is possible. After all, the necessary logistics and infrastructure are already available in the beverage trade and have been tried and tested over many years, as Frank Maßen from the initiative says. A pilot market in the cities of Wiesbaden and Mainz with networked issuing and return points is scheduled to start this early summer. In addition to the appropriate IT and deposit processing, this requires transport and flushing capacities.
Both existing and new reusable systems should be able to be integrated into this cycle. “We want to ensure that small providers also have opportunities,” said Maßen. The concept, which is politically supported by the environment ministries of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, can also be transferred to other municipalities in the future. The advisory board of the initiative is composed of representatives of the Pro-Reusable and Beverage Wholesale Trade Associations as well as the Reusable Working Group and Dehoga.
Federal Environment Agency for the extension of the reuse obligation
From the point of view of the Federal Environment Agency, further efforts are necessary to strengthen reusable systems. The authority therefore spoke out in favor of extending the obligation to offer reusable food to all single-use food packaging that is filled in the respective company. This is “necessary to prevent evasive movements to other disposable materials such as paper and cardboard”.
The incentive to use reusable packaging or crockery should also be increased if this were financially better off than disposable packaging. This is already possible on a voluntary basis, the Federal Environment Agency explained. These and other suggestions should also be brought to the Federal Ministry for the Environment in an advisory capacity.