Germany has passed a law called the Verpackungsgesetz, which aims to eliminate waste by requiring certain packaging materials to be recycled by law. Examples of packaging materials that qualify under this act include cardboard, glass, aluminum, plastic, natural materials, cardboard composite materials, and more.
Though this law is a few years old, it becomes mandatory for all packages sent through “commercial activity” to Germany beginning in July 2022. In view of this deadline, there are steps you can take before then to ensure you’re in compliance when the time comes.
What is Verpackungsgesetz (German Packaging Act)?
Verpackungsgesetz is a packaging law in Germany which becomes applicable to all producers of packaging materials in July of 2022. “Producers” is a defined term under the law, and includes all importers and online merchants sending packages to Germany from any country, including the U.S.
If you don’t fulfill the obligations under this act, Germany may stop your shipments from entering its borders altogether...and, in the worst case scenario, you may also be subject to written warning letters or heavy fines (up to €200,000 and a prohibition on sales) 😅
What you need to do
As a “producer” or online retailer sending packages to Germany, you are responsible for:
Paying money to Germany for the recycling of your packaging materials
Using the LUCID Packaging Register run by the Central Agency Packaging Register (ZSVR) to report how much packaging material you place on the German market each time you send a package to Germany
Update your buyers on return and recycling options (the Packaging Act requires sellers to provide this information to German buyers; you can communicate it in your shop policies or a terms and conditions document, for instance)
You can take care of this yourself every time you send a package to Germany, or you can appoint an authorized representative to act on your behalf when you register with the LUCID Packaging Register (this is what we recommend, since it lifts the responsibility off of your business and onto your representative).
Option 1: Register with the LUCID Packaging Register as a "producer"
To comply with the new German packaging laws, option 1 is to register with the LUCID Packaging Register, which is completely free. When you register, you'll then receive your individual LUCID registration number.
You can either register as a “producer” yourself (and assume all the responsibilities of complying with Verpackungsgesetz) or find an authorized representative during the registration process, which we've laid out in Option 2.
Option 2: Register with the LUCID Packaging Register and appoint an authorized representative
When you register with the LUCID Packaging Register, you can also elect to appoint an authorized representative to act on your behalf and make sure you’re in compliance with the guidelines of Verpackungsgesetz 👍
For your representative to use the LUCID Packaging Register, you need to appoint them through that website, and you can only appoint one. When you do so, you'll then be required to sign a contract that assigns your representative all responsibility for complying with all guidelines set forth in Verpackungsgesetz. This includes reporting all the necessary information through the LUCID Packaging Register each time you send a package to Germany.
Signing up for the LUCID Packaging Register
When you sign up for the LUCID Packaging Register, you'll need to provide some basic information about yourself or your business. Most of it is self-explanatory, though you'll also be asked for:
Your Producer address
Your VAT number/taxpayer reference number
Your National Identification Number
In the above cases, your Producer address can be the physical address of your business.
When you enter your US-based address, you won't have the option to add a VAT number. Instead, you'll need to enter your taxpayer reference number, which can be the EIN associated with your business. Select "Other" from the Type of taxpayer reference number dropdown menu, and enter your EIN. If you're just selling for yourself and not through a business entity, your social security number should do the trick.
The same goes for your National Identification Number. Select "Other" from the Type of national identification number dropdown menu, and then enter either the EIN of your business or your social security number. Next, enter either "Employee Identification Number" or "Social Security Number" in the designation field, depending on which number you used.
Finding and appointing an authorized representative
You won't be able to find an authorized representative to appoint when you sign up with the LUCID Packaging Register. Instead, you'll need to find one through some research. There are companies out there that provide this service, and running a Google search for "Authorized Representative in Germany" will pull up some results you can browse through 😉
Clever Representative is one example of a company that provides authorized representative services, though you'll need to pay a monthly subscription fee to use their services and enter into an agreement with them.
Once you have entered into an agreement with an authorized representative of your choice, appointing them in your LUCID account costs no money. You'll be able to appoint them in your LUCID dashboard after you register, as seen here:
You can watch a step-by-step video of how to appoint an authorized representative in the LUCID Packaging Register here.
You DON'T need to put your LUCID number on your label
When you register, you'll obtain your individual LUCID number, but you don't need to put it anywhere on your label. Germany's Central Agency Packaging Register has internal systems that match outbound packages with your LUCID identification number without you having to enter it when purchasing your label👌
What if I sell on a marketplace like Etsy or eBay?
If you use a marketplace such as Etsy or eBay to reach your customers, you’re still required to comply with the guidelines, and you'll also need to submit your LUCID number to Etsy and eBay themselves. Here's how to do that on both platforms:
In addition to that, you'll need to follow the same process as outlined above; you can either register as a producer, or appoint an authorized representative to act on your behalf during the registration process.
The law applies to all packages sent with “commercial activity”
The German packaging laws apply to any and all shipments sent under the basis of “commercial activity,” whether you’re sending one package or hundreds. Packages that aren't sent through commercial activity such as gifts or donations don’t need to follow the guidelines set forth in Verpackungsgesetz 😊
Unlike other VAT laws for packages going to the European Union, there is no de minimis threshold under Verpackungsgesetz. That means you need to comply with the German packaging laws no matter the value of the item or number of items you’re sending for any commercial packages.
Need some help?
For an easy-to-understand explanation of the law and how to comply, this video on the Verpackungsgesetz website is an informative watch.
On top of that video, the instructional papers, videos, and FAQs on the German website (https://www.verpackungsregister.org) provide a lot of information for registration and some guidance for partnering with authorized representatives in Germany. We can provide some help, but not legal guidance under German law. So, if you have some threshold questions or want some more clarification, click the blue chat button to get in touch with our Support Crew - we’re happy to lend a hook any way we can 😃
You can also direct more specific questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.