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    Mandatory reuse from 2023

    No time to waste for food-service businesses

    The regulations on mandatory reuse come into force in Germany on 1 January 2023. From this date onwards, food-service businesses will be required to offer a reusable alternative to their disposable containers.

    The COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge increase in the amount of packaging used for takeaway food and to-go beverages. The first major effort to set a different course was the new German Packaging Act, which came into force in May 2021. An EU-wide ban was introduced on disposable plastic products such as single-use cutlery and plates, drinking straws and drink stirrers.

    But more action is still needed. That's why additional provisions will come into effect in January 2023 to protect the environment and help combat climate change. These will require single-use packaging for takeaway food and drinks to gradually be replaced by reusable alternativesin Germany. Under the new law, businesses are not permitted to charge a higher price for reusable alternatives or offer them under inferior conditions.

    What does mandatory reuse mean in practice?

    From January 2023 onwards, large food-service businesses that offer their products in disposable dishware must also offer a reusable alternative. This reusable dishware can be provided to customers on the basis of a deposit scheme or pool system.

    National pool systems:

    For food service businesses with lots of walk-in customers and only a single outlet or a few branches

    • Buy to-go in Berlin, return the packaging in Hamburg! in this model, customers sign up online and download an app from a reusable packaging provider. They can then purchase takeaway food and drink in reusable dishware from participating food-service businesses. The reusable containers can subsequently be returned to a different participating  food-service partner, generally within a timeframe of two weeks.
    • If customers fail to return their reusable dishware within the agreed period of time, a pre-defined sum of money is debited from their account and the dishware becomes their property.

    Local deposit schemes:

    For food-service businesses that operate on a regional/local basis

    • This model allows customers to acquire and return reusable packaging at any participating food-service partner in the region in return for a deposit.

    In-house deposit scheme:

    For food-service businesses that wish to use their own branding and that have lots of repeat customers

    • Companies can also choose to develop their own in-house deposit scheme
    • In this model, the company's reusable containers can only be acquired and returned at the company's own outlets.

    Who is subject to the law on mandatory reuse?

    The law applies to the food-service sector and to all businesses that offer takeaway food and to-go beverages and meet the following criteria:

    Large businesses with five or more employees and 80 square meters or more of retail space will be required tooffer reusable packaging. This requirement will also apply to small branches of bakery chains, such as those located at train stations. This is because the question of whether the law applies depends on the company's total headcount, and companies of this type typically have more than five employees. The same applies to petrol stations and smaller branches of restaurants and fast-food chains.

    Who is exempt from the law on mandatory reuse?

    An exemption from these provisions applies to small food-service companies and takeaway food and drink businesses that meet the following criteria:

    The only food-service businesses that will be exempt from requirements to obtain and offer reusable containers are those that employ fewer than five people AND have a retail space of less than 80 m². Nonetheless, smaller businesses to which this exemption applies must still permit the option of takeaway food and drink being packed in customers' own containers on request.

    What will happen if I fail to implement the new rules on mandatory reuse?

    Failure to implement the new rules on mandatory reuse could lead to fines of up to 100,000 euros. At first glance, the new law could seem like a major burden for the catering industry. But reusable alternatives offer a great opportunity for all food-service companies to help boost sustainability and combat climate change. By switching from disposable to reusable containers, you can:

    • avoid waste
    • reduce consumption of raw materials
    • help protect the environment

    What opportunities are presented by mandatory reuse?

    • By reducing the use of disposable dishware, the new system will help businesses lower their costs.
    • The offer of reusable dishware will also help attract new, eco-conscious customers and create stronger ties to existing customers. The majority of customers will return to the same provider to get their multi-use containers refilled, or to hand them in and recoup their deposit.
    • Large businesses that decide to run their own in-house reusable packaging scheme will employ branded dishware to help boost brand awareness.

    Reusable packaging is here to stay!

    But when businesses switch to reusable packaging, they also need the right warewashing technology to keep things running smoothly. People expect to get their takeaway food and drink with a minimal wait – so that means getting dirty reusable containers clean and back into circulation as fast as possible. To achieve this, businesses need a professional warewashing machine and the right detergent. 

    Replacing disposable dishware with reusable alternatives and intelligent warewashing technology is a great way to future-proof your business. Get in touch to find out how we can help!