The Green Dot symbol was an initiative started in Germany to address the problems associated with the disposal of packaging, in compliance with the German Packaging Ordinance. The Green Dot logo appearing on packaging material indicates to consumers that “a financial contribution has been paid to a national packaging recovery company that has been set up in accordance with principles defined in the European Directive for packaging waste and its national law”.
This means that manufacturers of the products that carry the Green Dot symbol have taken responsibility for collection, sorting and recycling of packaging by contributing to their national packaging recovery scheme in participating countries. Their contribution is financial in nature and goes towards the country specific special recovery scheme.
 Packaging and the environment
With thousands of products produced and consumed each year, the packaging of these products is becoming an increasing environmental concern. The processes associated with the manufacture of packaging materials are harmful to the environment.
The processes involved in the manufacture of packaging materials, use up valuable non-renewable resources such as petroleum. Combustion processes during the manufacturing process contribute to air pollution and often industries manufacturing packaging products impact water bodies in their environment. Fuel is also consumed in the transportation of packaging materials adding to air pollution.
The problem does not end here. In fact, the impact to the environment becomes even greater considering packaging materials are eventually discarded in the rubbish bin or worse, ends up as litter. This puts addiitonal load on waste management. Litter, apart from being an eyesore, is a special threat to wildlife. Animals suffer entrapment in the mechanical configuration of some packaging, and also suffer illnesses and even death caused by ingesting certain packaging materials.
Packaging discarded in rubbish bins is causing increasing problems as it ends up in landfill sites. (Landfill sites are dumps where waste is buried as a method of refuse disposal). Landfills are known to be highly damaging to the environment, producing methane, a major element in global warming. Also, areas available as landfill sites are becoming increasingly rare due to the prohibitive cost of land. The statistics associated with packaging waste indicate the extent of the problem.
 Did You Know?
- In the US, about 32%, or 75 million tons, of the gross weight and one half of the volume of municipal solid waste is composed of containers and packaging materials, which comes to about 300 pounds per American per year.
- In the EU, 66 million tons of packaging waste – 5% of total waste, 17% of municipal solid waste by weight and between 20 and 30% by volume were generated in 2002. See Unpacking the packaging ptoblem.
- According to Recycle More, an average family in a developed country gets through 5kg of paper, 3 plastic bottles, 13 cans, and 4 glass bottles/jars as packaging waste every week.
 A fresh approach to packaging disposal
Given the current circumstances, governments, environmental organisations and concerned consumers have been looking for solutions to this problem, realising that a change in the approach to packaging and its disposal was necessary. As a result of numerous discussions, research and legislations, it is becoming clear that, to deal with waste packaging, recovery, recycling and reprocessing need to be adopted before irrevocable damage is done to the environment. Recovery, in this case, involves burning the waste and capturing the energy that is released. Recovery also involves recycling waste material and reprocessing involves reprocessing the actual materials to create another useful item.
Manufacturers and producers also need to make environmentally sound choices in regards to the packaging of their products. Increasing awareness has prompted manufacturers to understand the impact of packaging on the environment through ‘life cycle assessment’ or ‘cradle-to-grave approach’. This means packaging choices should be made after evaluating the impact of all the inputs and processes involved in the manufacture, use and disposal of the packaging material.
Government regulations and increased consumer awareness are prompting many packaging initiatives which are being created with the objective of minimising environmental impacts. One of the key initiatives in this field is the Green Dot Symbol.
 The Green Dot Symbol
Duales System Deutschland (DSD), a non profit organisation, established the Green Dot symbol as a registered trademark in 1991. DSD organises the sorting and collection of used sales packages bearing the Green Dot symbol, and arranges for them to be recycled. The success of the Green Dot initiative has prompted many other European countries to introduce similar packaging recover schemes.
In fact, in 1994, the EU legislation passed the EU Directive EC 94/62/EC to address the disposal of packaging as a response to the drop in landfill capacities and declining resources. Essentially, this directive places the “responsibility for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste on those who handle packaging at any stage of the supply chain”. It also stipulates deadlines for all member nations to introduce systems for the collection and recovery of packaging material to recover between 50 and 65% of packaging waste.
In order for member nations to work together toward this objective and to avoid trade barriers, PRO EUROPE (Packaging Recovery Organisation Europe) was set up. Based in Brussels, PRO EUROPE acts as an umbrella organisation for the national packaging recovery organisation of the participating EU nations. It is also the general licensor for the Green Dot trademark.
 What Does The Green Dot Symbol Signiify?
The Green Dot logo appearing on packaging material indicates to consumers that “a financial contribution has been paid to a national packaging recovery company that has been set up in accordance with principles defined in the European Directive for packaging waste and its national law”.
This means that manufacturers of the products that carry the Green Dot symbol have taken responsibility for collection, sorting and recycling of packaging by contributing to their national packaging recovery scheme in participating countries. Thier contribution is financial in nature and goes towards the country specific special recovery scheme.
Often, these schemes have special recovery methods- for example, in Germany, this scheme is managed by Duales System Deutschland (DSD); where the products carrying the Green Dot log are disposed in special yellow bags and bins. The scheme is financed by the license fees paid by manufacturers to use the Green Dot symbol on their products. DSD only collects packaging material from manufacturers that pay this license fee through DSD operated waste collection vehicles. The material is then sorted and wherever possible, it is recycled in DSD facilities. Similar schemes operate in other Green Dot participating countries with their own national recovery schemes that operate along the lines of the DSD.
 How is the license fees calculated?
To encourage manufacturers to work towards reducing the packaging material they use for their products, the Green Dot symbol is calculated on a ‘user pays’ principle. The fee is based on the material used in the packaging (e.g paper, plastic, wood, cardboard, metal etc) and accounts for the different collecting, sorting and recycling costs of the various materials. The fee varies by country. In this way, manufacturers must make responsible choices regarding the packaging of their products as this would affect the license fee they pay for the Green Dot symbol and ultimately the price of their product.
 Countries that participating in the Green Dot scheme
The Green Dot symbol is actively financing packaging recovery schemes in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. This scheme also includes Norway (as a member of the European economic region), Croatia and Turkey.
In the UK and North America, PRO EUROPE has licensed the use of the Green Dot symbol to VALPAK and CSR respectively. However, it is not yet used as a financing symbol.
 Criticisms of the Green Dot symbol
There are certain limitations for which the Green Dot symbol faces criticism.
- Firstly, consumers may easily confuse the Green Dot symbol with the recycling symbol. In fact, the Green Dot symbol is not a recycling symbol. It is only an indication of a financial contribution that producer has made a contribution toward the recycling of that packaging.
- Consumers may also be mislead by seeing the symbol appear in the UK and North America, where is is not a financing symbol – it is a trademark only, indicating that the manufacturer has paid the license fee for using the trademark. In the UK for example, the UK Green Dot trademark does not indicate compliance to the UK Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations.
- Green Dot North America
- Duales System Deutschland GmbH
- Valpak, UK's leading provider of compliance and recycling solutions
- Packaging Recovery Organisation (Pro Europe)
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