Protest over German container deposits plan

Glass, waste, industries predict collapse of recycling system, widespread job losses

German glass and waste industry interests today protested in Berlin at government plans to introduce deposits on all one-way glass packaging. The coalition's claim that the new system would destroy successful existing recycling systems and put up to 10,000 jobs at risk was immediately rejected by environment minister Jürgen Trittin.

New deposits are already in the offing under existing German packaging law, but these would only affect one-way glass containers for beer and mineral water, as well as steel cans. Under a new policy launched in October, the environment ministry now wants to replace existing rules with a new system under which deposits would be imposed on all "ecologically unfavourable" packaging, including one-way glass packages (ENDS Daily 25 October).

German waste association BDE and glass industry associations are incensed by the new approach, which they claim will harm both the economy and the environment. The deposit system will mean about 1.5m tonnes of glass packaging out of the 2.7m currently collected for recycling being returned by consumers to shops, the associations say. Shops will not be able to maintain colour separation without huge extra expense and so will produce mixed cullet, which is not usable by the German glass industry.

The result, the BDE claims, will be less glass recycled at higher cost. Employment will be threatened in the glass recycling industry, particularly among small and medium sized enterprises. In the longer term, the policy could actually undermine the refillable container system that the government is seeking to bolster, they further allege.

Mr Trittin responded angrily today, rejecting the BDE's predictions of disaster and defending his policy of favouring refillable containers. The protests were "ill-considered," he said, and the protesters are simply fearing for their profits because they had a vested interest in "smashing glass".

Follow Up:
BDE, tel: +49 221 934 7000, and press release; German environment ministry, tel: +49 30 28 55 00, and press release.

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