Smoking is basically not healthy, but if you can't stop smoking, you should at least smoke without a filter. That also means less work for the city cleaning department. According to the nature conservation association NABU, cigarette butts, i.e. the smoked filters with a residue of tobacco and paper, are a real problem because thousands of harmful substances get into the sea and groundwater.
In NABU studies on the pollution of the German Baltic Sea coast between 2011 and 2017, almost every tenth piece of garbage was a cigarette filter. And according to the ocean conservation organization Ocean Conservancy, between 2011 and 2018 cigarette butts were the most common find in clean-up operations worldwide.
The manufacturers should now pay for the clearing away. According to Article 8 of the Single-Use Plastics Directive (EWKRL), all EU member states are obliged to introduce extended manufacturer responsibility for certain products made of single-use plastic - in addition to cigarette butts, also to-go food containers, beverage containers, wet wipes, balloons.
The traffic light coalition has already passed the German law on the guideline. It should have cleared all parliamentary hurdles by spring 2023. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is now coming up with practicable proposals for pricing.
Producers of disposable cups are to pay 1.23 euros per kilogram of all cups placed on the market. It is 87 cents for bags and film packaging, 3.79 euros for carrier bags and just under 18 cents for food containers. Cigarette butts are the most expensive. They should cost 8.95 euros per kilo.
The idea behind this is that in future not the general public but the manufacturers of these products will bear the follow-up costs for waste disposal in public spaces. Therefore, they should make payments to a single-use plastic fund, which will then reimburse the cost of waste disposal.
According to NABU, 350,000 tons of waste are generated in Germany every year from disposable tableware and to-go packaging alone. At one euro per kilo for a waste mix, manufacturers would have to pay 350 million euros a year.
And the butts alone cost the cigarette industry almost 270 million euros. The calculation: A smoked butt weighs 0.2 grams. 5000 pieces bring it to one kilo.
According to NABU, 150 billion cigarettes are produced in Germany. Their remains alone add up to 30 million kilos or 30,000 tons - perhaps a little less because a small proportion of cigarettes are still manufactured without a filter.
But because only around half of the cigarettes in Germany are smoked, around 135 million euros have to be paid into the German fund - regardless of whether a cigarette is carelessly disposed of in nature or properly disposed of in the garbage.
The industry should be able to do that, because the tobacco industry in Germany had a turnover of around 23 billion euros in 2021 with cigarettes alone. And since the EU directive also has to be implemented in other European countries, where the other German fags are mainly consumed, there are also costs for the German manufacturers there.
The UBA came up with the kilo prices by using a key to determine the costs for emptying public waste containers, cleaning streets, parks, beaches, cleaning sewer shafts and the proportionate costs in the sewage treatment plants, the effort, frequency and waste volume taken into account.
According to a UBA study, to-go food containers, bags and film packaging, beverage cups and containers, light carrier bags, wet wipes and tobacco products with filters containing plastic cause around 434 million euros in costs nationwide every year.
The Association of Municipal Companies (VKU), which of course also includes the city cleaning companies, welcomes the planned regulation. It is high time that the manufacturers shared the costs of municipal city cleaning via the one-way plastic fund.
Increasingly, one has to fight against the littering of to-go packaging and cigarette butts. But that is just the beginning, because the planned law focuses exclusively on certain single-use plastic products, but pizza boxes, aluminum trays and chewing gum are also a major waste problem.
According to the VKU, the single-use plastic fund should ideally be developed into an anti-littering fund in which the manufacturers of all frequently littering single-use products contribute to the municipal cleaning costs, regardless of their material composition.
The mood among the affected manufacturers is less euphoric. The planned special levy comes at an inopportune time because the German economy is fully occupied with maintaining operations despite skyrocketing energy prices and thus ensuring that hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs are preserved, several associations from retail, gastronomy, packaging and tobacco industries complain in one joint opinion.
In addition, the fund contradicts the burden moratorium decided by the federal government at the end of September to avoid disproportionate bureaucracy in the current crisis.
Business representatives also have little understanding for the fact that the Ministry of the Environment and UBA want to play a central role in the implementation of the law. "The EU rules provide that the costs to be apportioned are determined between the stakeholders concerned, i.e. between business and municipalities," says Martin Engelman, General Manager of the IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V.
“According to the current proposal, however, the costs should be determined solely by the Ministry of the Environment. And the UBA should be able to determine who should pay for what. That no longer has anything to do with the principle of manufacturer responsibility,” criticizes Engelmann.
This effort is also completely disproportionate to “the very low level of tax that is being considered,” says Peter Feller, Deputy General Manager of the Federal Association of the German Food Industry (BVE). He calls for a de minimis limit, according to which products that make up less than one percent of waste and garbage are exempt from the specifications.
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