New German Packaging Law: Which Catering Businesses Must Offer Reusable Packaging?

Since 2022, all disposable plastic beverage bottles and beverage cans have been subjected to a deposit. Starting in 2023, reusable containers for food and beverages to take away and / or order will help to avoid waste, save raw materials and protect the environment.


New Packaging Act: Measures that Protect the Environment

The Packaging Act, which came into force in Germany in 2019, aims to reduce the consumption of disposable packaging and promote the introduction of reusable packaging. This measure aims to counteract the growing environmental impact of the immense amount of packaging waste. The catering industry in particular generates a significant amount of packaging waste, which increases both resource waste and environmental pollution.

The new Packaging Act now stipulates which catering establishments in Germany are obliged to offer reusable packaging. This obligation aims to increase the acceptance and availability of reusable packaging and thus promote a more sustainable use of packaging materials.

Reusable packaging is a container or packaging that can be used repeatedly. Unlike single-use packaging, which is disposed of after a single use, reusable packaging is designed to be used several times before being recycled or reprocessed.

Some common examples of reusable packaging are glass bottles, reusable plastic containers, stainless steel bottles, reusable bags and reusable coffee cups. These packages are cleaned, disinfected and refilled after use in order to put them back into circulation. Many shops and supermarkets now offer the option of buying products in reusable packaging and returning empty containers to have them refilled.

Deposit can with plant

The introduction of the new packaging law and the obligation to provide reusable packaging marks an important step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly catering industry. It is crucial that businesses and consumers alike take responsibility and contribute to the responsible use of packaging materials in order to conserve our natural resources and protect the environment.

Violations of the obligation to offer reusable packaging can be punished as administrative offences by the responsible state authorities with fines.

What Measures Apply to Delivery Services and Gastronomy?

From 2023, caterers, delivery services and restaurants in Germany will be obliged to offer reusable containers for orders as an alternative to disposable containers, whether for consumption on site or to take away. Small businesses with a maximum of 5 employees and 80 square metres of sales area are exempt from this regulation. However, customers have the option to insist on having food and drinks filled in containers they bring with them.

The aim of the new packaging law in Germany is to promote the use of reusable packaging in various sectors, including the catering industry. By obliging certain catering establishments to provide reusable packaging, more sustainable packaging practices are encouraged and a contribution is made to reducing waste.

In Germany, a large amount of packaging waste is generated daily by disposable take-away packaging. There are already some established systems for reusable coffee-to-go cups. When customers want to order take-away food, reusable packaging is now already offered in isolated cases. The introduction of reusable packaging in the catering industry aims to reduce the amount of packaging waste and promote the use of more sustainable solutions.

The prices for reusable and one-way packaging must not be different or offer worse conditions. In the future, consumers will have the choice between single-use and reusable packaging and can actively contribute to reducing the consumption of single-use packaging.

Reusable packaging will play an increasingly important role throughout Europe in the future. There are plans to ban some small packaging such as free shampoo bottles in hotels or certain single-use plastic packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables.

While this is still theory in some European countries, it has already been implemented in Germany: extensive deposit and return systems for beverage packaging as well as the new obligation to use reusable systems in the take-away sector. Restaurateurs can charge a deposit for reusable packaging, but are not obliged to do so. The deposit is charged in addition to the product and is fully refunded after return.

In addition, clearly visible information boards or signs must indicate that reusable packaging is offered. Many committed companies charge a surcharge for single-use packaging to motivate customers to use reusable alternatives. The reusable containers offered must also be taken back.

In addition, the production and trade of disposable plastic products, such as disposable cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws and stirrers, has been banned across the EU since 3 July 2021. The same applies to to-go cups and disposable food containers made of polystyrene.

According to the Consumer Advice Center in Berlin, up to 770 tonnes of packaging waste are generated every day in Germany by take-away packaging for food and drinks.

Which Beverage Containers will be Subject to the Mandatory Deposit in the Future?

Until now, all plastic bottles were subject to a deposit. Plastic bottles containing dairy products, however, enjoy a transitional period until 2023. Meanwhile, beverage cans are also considered subject to a deposit. The deposit system for one-way beverage bottles ensures their recycling for the production of new bottles or even textiles.

A deposit of 25 cents is charged on one-way beverage bottles of beer, mineral water, soft drinks and mixed alcoholic beverages. Milk products, wine, spirits and fruit and vegetable juices have so far been exempt from the mandatory deposit. Niche products such as cider, cider or energy drinks are also not yet subject to the deposit regulation.


What is the Recyclate Content for PET Beverage Bottles?

Starting in 2025, single-use beverage bottles must contain at least 25% recycled plastic, so-called recyclate. From 2030, the proportion will be increased to at least 30%. As early as 2015, PET returnable beverage bottles contained an average of 26% recycled material.


Mandatory deposit for all one-way plastic beverage bottles and all beverage cans.


Additional offer of reusable packaging in addition to disposable containers for fast food and to-go food (smaller businesses are exempt from the obligation)


At least 25% recycled plastic content in PET disposable beverage bottles.


At least 30% recycled plastic content for all single-use plastic beverage bottles.

Frequently Asked Questions at a Glance

Reusable packaging is packaging that is designed to go through several cycles of use before being recycled or renewed. Unlike single-use packaging, which is disposed of after a single use, reusable packaging can be used more often. Reusable packaging is usually made of robust materials such as glass, plastic or metal.

More and more companies are offering reusable packaging. These include: the beverage industry, supermarkets, grocery shops, delivery services, take-away restaurants, coffee shops, cafés and companies with a sustainable focus.

The fact that reusable packaging is made of robust materials such as glass, plastic or metal means that they can be used well in the catering industry. After use, they are cleaned, disinfected and refilled to be used again. This reduces the amount of waste associated with disposable packaging and saves resources. Reusable containers for food and beverages, reusable bottles or jars, reusable cups or even deposit packaging can be put to good use because this packaging can be used several times before it is returned, cleaned and refilled.

Reusable packaging contributes to waste prevention and resource conservation by reducing the need for new packaging materials. They play an important role in promoting the circular economy and reducing the environmental impact of the packaging industry.

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