Law against discarded returns and coffee mugs

Every sixth online order goes down – and some of it ends up in the trash. Environment Minister Schulze wants to ban that. The cabinet approved a corresponding bill. But it leaves questions unanswered.

The government wants to oblige traders to keep goods usable and to share the costs of disposing of disposable cups or cigarettes. In the morning, the cabinet passed a corresponding draft law for the legal basis. It provides for a so-called duty of care for handling returns and unsold new goods.

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze wants to prevent high-quality goods from being destroyed, especially in online retail, for example to make room on the shelves – or because throwing them away is cheaper than offering items that have been returned. The extent of the destruction of the returns is not known in detail. That is why the SPD politician wants to oblige dealers to disclose whether they destroy goods and how many.

Coffee chains should also pay for garbage

However, essential details must be clarified via regulations – for example, which goods this relates to and which retailers are affected. Products should then only be disposed of as rubbish if they are spoiled, broken or dangerous – or if it is economically not feasible any other way. But even for this, the standards have not yet been set in detail.

It is also unclear how the participation of coffee retail chains in the costs for the disposal of coffee cups in public spaces should be organized and how high the contribution will be. The municipal waste disposal companies are currently checking for a whole year how many cups, butts and other disposable packaging actually pollute the floor on sidewalks, parks and streets or let the garbage can overflow. The aim of the planned financial participation is to get manufacturers to rely on reusable packaging.

Retail: As few returns as possible now

The association of municipal companies wanted the cabinet decision to spread the so-called producer responsibility, for example also for sticky chewing gum. The trade association HDE criticized the planned "duty of care" for goods as superfluous: "For cost reasons, the trade is already doing everything possible to keep the number of goods returned by customers as low as possible," said Managing Director Stefan Genth.

Returned goods that are heavily soiled or damaged will only be destroyed in exceptional cases. New reporting requirements meant "useless bureaucratic hurdles". Instead, the donation of returns should be made easier by eliminating sales tax. Consumers would have to become more sensitive to the environmental consequences of returns.

Reuse and repair

Another part of the bill aims to create a larger market for recycled materials. The federal government, its authorities and companies should in future give preference to recycled products to new ones. Good reparability should also be a preferred criterion for purchases, as long as there are no excessive additional costs.

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