Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Germany: Lightweight Plastic Bag Ban to Take Effect January 1, 2022

(Feb. 25, 2021) On February 9, 2021, the First Act to Amend the Packaging Act entered into force in Germany. The amendment bans the distribution of lightweight plastic bags at the point of sale of goods or products starting January 1, 2022. Lightweight plastic bags are those with a wall thickness below 50 microns. Very lightweight plastic bags, meaning bags with a wall thickness below 15 microns, are exempted from the ban. The amendment of the German Packaging Act (Verpackungsgesetz, VerpackG) implements the requirements of the EU Plastic Bags Directive. Merchants may be fined up to 100,000 euros (about US$120,555) for violating the ban. (VerpackG, § 34, para. 1, no. 1 in conjunction with § 34, para. 2, as amended.)

According to the European Commission, lightweight plastic carrier bags are one of the top ten littered items in Europe. In 2018, each person in Germany used around 20 lightweight plastic bags per year. The number is down from 68 per capita in 2015. The reduction resulted from a voluntary agreement with German merchants in 2016. However, according to the explanatory memorandum to the amendment, not all merchants participated and it is unlikely that the numbers would be reduced further. The objective of the amendment is therefore to “continue the positive development and reduce the number of lightweight plastic bags in circulation considerably.” (Explanatory memorandum at 9.)