Germany Bans the Production of New Disposable Plastic Products

From 3 July 2021, Germany has banned the production and sales of new single-use plastic products like straws, cutlery, cotton buds, food containers, and plastic balloon sticks in alignment with the 2019 EU directive to reduce plastic waste. Vendors now have to offer reusable alternatives like metal or glass products to satisfy the demand.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said, “Many disposable plastic products made of plastic are surplus and not a sustainable use of resources. In addition, plastic products too often end up in the environment or the ocean.” 

The German Association of Local Utilities (VKU) estimates that common plastic items make up between 10% and 20% percent of the waste in the streets, parks, and communal public spaces. Further, takeaway packaging for food and drinks takes the largest share.

The VKU appreciated the new regulations as it will help to keep the cities clean, said VKU vice president Patrick Hasenkamp. “So far, it has been the cities and residents who had to pay for cleaning up plastic waste; now companies will have to contribute take a part in that, too.”

Although single-use plastics do have many valuable use cases, e.g., in the medical field, where they allow for a more sterile and safer environment for both medical professionals as well as patients, the use of disposable items has become a big part of everyday life resulting in severe environmental consequences.

According to the UN Environment Report, every minute, about one million plastic bottles are bought, and 300 million tons of waste are produced every single year – which is nearly “the weight of the entire human population”. Further, half of the plastic produced is designed as disposable items that end up in the oceans and environment. 

“With today’s cabinet decision, we’ve taken an important national step in the fight against the plastic flood. We need to find a way to ditch the use-and-throw culture,” said Svenja Schulze. 

Banning the production and sales of new disposable items is just the first step in the German Federal Environment Minister’s plan for limiting and reducing the use of plastic with the goal to reduce the surplus of plastic used and to protect the environment and the oceans.

Going forward, the next steps will be to support the production of environmentally friendly packaging, increase the percentage of recycled plastic to 63% by 1 January 2022, avoid plastic waste in compost, and globally reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the oceans by implementing more conscious plastic consumption habits.