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Packaging Ordinance

Legal requirements at a glance

Manufacturers, importers, packers and distributors of packaging and packaged goods are required by the terms of the Packaging Ordinance (VerpackVO) to take back packaging themselves and recycle it or, alternatively, to participate in a collection and recycling system subject to a licence fee.

In the early 1990s, owing to the growing volume of household waste and dwindling disposal site capacities, the Austrian government was forced to formulate legally binding waste management objectives in order to prevent a disposal crisis. Following developments in other European countries, it was therefore decided to introduce the Packaging Ordinance on the basis of the waste management law.

The ordinance on avoiding packaging waste (Packaging Ordinance [VerpackVO], Federal Law Gazette No. 645/1992) came into force on 1 October 1993. For the first time, after testing had been carried out in individual product groups since 1990, manufacturers, packers, distributors and importers were made responsible for returning and recycling household, commercial and industrial packaging waste. The principle of producer responsibility was introduced across the board.

The ordinance has been revised extensively once since coming into force. In the mid-1990s, the Constitutional Court repealed central regulations in the ordinance that had been previously in effect and when Austria joined the EU in 1995, it was obliged to implement the EU Packaging Guidelines. As a result, the ordinance on avoiding and recycling packaging waste and certain excess goods and on establishing collection and recycling systems came into force in 1996. This specifies the legal framework that is still essentially valid today. In 2006, it was adapted in accordance with the current obligations stipulated in the EU Packaging Directive 94/62/EC, changed by Directive (EC) No. 1882/2003.

The focal point of the ordinance is the return and recycling obligations to be met by those who put sales, outer or transport packaging into circulation for the first time, as stipulated in § 3 section 1 of the Packaging Ordinance. These can be fulfilled by the manufacturers, packers, distributors and importers themselves in a procedure that is labelled “self-fulfilment”. As the organisation involved is frequently very costly and time-intensive – particularly when it involves several distribution stages – the Packaging Ordinance also permits companies affected by these regulations to transfer their obligations with legal effect to a collection and recycling system instead, as stipulated in § 11 of the Packaging Ordinance. Collection and recycling systems can be set up for household or commercial purposes, or for both areas.

The return and recycling obligations – or participation in a collection and recycling system instead – relating to those who put packaging into circulation for the first time are applicable at all trade levels up to and including the final distributor. If one trade level participates in a system, the other trade levels must receive written notification of the situation, with details of the collection and recycling system (in the form of a legally binding declaration or on delivery notes and invoices).

In the case of self-fulfilment (returning and recycling without participating in a system), the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management must be provided with evidence of the fulfilment of the return and recycling obligations for the previous calendar year by 31 March, using the form in Annex 3 of the Packaging Ordinance. If this evidence is not provided or not provided for 100% of the packaging volume put into circulation, the company in question will be obliged to participate in a collection and recycling system at a later stage as stipulated in § 3 section 9 of the Packaging Ordinance.

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