Starting in 2025, German PET beverage bottles must contain at least 25 percent recycled plastic. In 2030, this "minimum recyclate content" will rise to 30 percent and will then apply to all bottles made of single-use plastic. We can see a clear trend here: With the help of regulation, the recycling balance of packaging materials is to be improved ever further. Read on to find out how companies can deal with this challenge and thus ensure their future viability.

On July 2, 2019, Directive (EU) 2019/904 on reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment entered into force. The aim of the directive is to reduce the impact of those plastic products that have been found particularly frequently as waste on European beaches. The directive aims to protect the environment and the oceans from the negative impact of plastics and microplastics in particular. It also seeks to reduce the consumption of limited primary resources and to contribute to a cycle-oriented management of plastics.

In Germany, the provisions of the EU Directive will be transposed into national law with an amendment to the Packaging Act, which was passed by the German cabinet on January 20, 2021. The new regulations that will affect packaging manufacturers, distributors and online marketplaces, among others. will come into force from 2022. The core of the amendment is the obligation to use reusable alternatives in the Take-Out sector, a minimum quota of recycled plastic in plastic bottles, and an extension of the mandatory deposit. You can view the German government's draft legislation (in German) here. Following the decision in the federal cabinet, the amendment to the Packaging Act still has to be passed by the German Parliament and the Federal Council (Bundestag and Bundesrat).

For companies, this phase of transition brings huge challenges - but also opportunities. In the following, we would like to take a closer look at one innovation: The minimum quota of recycled plastic for beverage bottles.

Minimum quota of recycled plastic - what has been decided?

From January 1, 2025, manufacturers of single-use plastic beverage bottles made primarily of polyethylene terephthalate will only be allowed to market these bottles if they each consist of at least 25 percent by mass of recycled plastics. From January 1, 2030, this quota will increase to at least 30 percent and will then apply to all single-use plastic bottles.

Manufacturers can decide for themselves whether this quota is met per bottle or spread over a year in relation to the entire bottle production. Under the second option, the type and mass of plastic recyclates used by the manufacturer for bottle production must be documented in verifiable form, as well as the total plastics used for bottle production. It must be possible to produce the documentation upon request.

This new regulation means that manufacturers of single-use plastic beverage bottles must now demonstrate their ability to adapt. An economic system that is able to deal with these and upcoming challenges is the principle of circular economy. Below, we present the circular economy model and review one of the leading standards that helps companies implement a circular system: ISCC PLUS.

Circular Economy

The circular economy model is concerned with handling resources prudently so that nothing is wasted. This means that products and materials are kept in the product cycle and reused, remanufactured, and recycled for as long as possible. This regenerative approach is intended to create a closed-loop supply chain that, through its system design, simply "desings out" waste.

The advantage of such an economic system is obvious: Maximizing economic, natural, and social capital. In this way, environmental goals can be achieved and economic growth stimulated. So much for the theory. The practice, of course, is a lot more complicated. But there are standards that help companies make the transition to a circular economy. ISCC PLUS is one of them.

The certification system allows producers to take full responsibility for the sustainability impacts of their raw materials. Here you can learn about the principles of ISCC PLUS and view company examples of the many ways the ISCC PLUS standard can be applied.

ISCC PLUS Certification for the Circular Economy

ISCC PLUS certification for the circular economy can be applied to all raw materials that can be recycled. For these materials, the standard offers two options: The source material can be physically segregated OR it can be mixed but accounted for separately, using the mass balance approach.

The mass balance approach makes it possible for companies to demonstrate minimum recycled content in single-use bottles. Under this approach, sustainability properties remain assigned to material batches for accounting purposes, while the physical mixing of material with different sustainability properties and the mixing of sustainable and non-sustainable material is allowed. This not only gives the recycled material an economic value, but also reduces the risk of plastic waste entering the environment in an uncontrolled manner.

As an example, plastic waste is generated at waste management facilities, for example, where it is separated from other waste materials and can be recycled after further mechanical or chemical processing. This process is certified by ISCC PLUS. Manufacturers of packaging products can use this recycled and certified material in their production to meet customer and regulatory requirements. ISCC PLUS certification guarantees the traceability of the raw material, and certifies that the material has been used in accordance with the ISCC PLUS standard. As soon as the end user throws the packaging in the trash, this cycle starts all over again.

Thus, ISCC PLUS certification is able to cover the entire supply chain: from the source of the material to the final product. It is guaranteed that the material is actually recycled and the consumption of new raw material is reduced. You can view the ISCC PLUS System document here.

DQS is your partner when it comes to ISCC PLUS certification. Here you can find a company example of a successful ISCC PLUS certification by DQS.

The advantages

ISCC PLUS certification helps companies to master existing and future sustainability requirements. Regulatory requirements can be met and compliance can be demonstrated. In addition, companies with a circular business model meet consumer demands and support employee loyalty through sustainable corporate management.

Constanze Illner

Constanze Illner (she/her) is Research and Communications Officer in the area of sustainability and food safety. In this position, she keeps an eye on all important developments in this context and informs our clientele in a monthly newsletter. She also moderates the annual Sustainability Heroes conference.