Germany's 'Green Dot' Waste Management System

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Case Details:

Case Code : BENV011
Case Length : 21 Pages
Period : 1990-2007
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : DSD GmbH
Industry : Services (Waste Management)
Countries : Germany

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Background Note

Germans were considered among the most environmentally conscious people in the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, long before 'sustainability'and 'eco-friendliness'became common terms, Germans followed several eco-friendly practices.

A visit to a West German grocery store in the 1980s would have surprised many people from other developed countries. For example, most products were sold unwrapped; meat and cheese were cut to order rather than sold in pre-packaged form; and at the checkout counter, there were no plastic bags – most consumers would bring their own shopping baskets or bags...

Initial Hiccups

The Green Dot system had its share of problems. While the system was successful in increasing waste collection, traditional waste management companies such as landfill companies suffered a blow. There were problems associated with sorting as well.

Too Much Waste or Too Little?
In the initial years, the amount of waste that had to be recycled caused a lot of problems for DSD. Enthusiastic public participation in the program resulted in the system being overwhelmed with waste. DSD had estimated that a total of 100,000 tons of plastic waste would have to be collected in the first year...

Material Differences
After the introduction of the system, it was found that all packaging materials did not lend themselves equally well to recycling. While glass and cellulose products could be recycled relatively easily, plastics and aluminum recycling proved to be difficult...

Sorting Issues
Initially, due to the newness of the system, a small but significant number of Germans would throw packaging waste without the Green Dot in the yellow bins meant for only 'Green Dot'waste while some others would throw the 'Green Dot waste'with the normal waste...

DSD Feels the Crunch

DSD's costs rose, as it had to pay for warehouses to store all the waste, especially plastic. It also had to pay the recycling companies, who charged up to US$ 1,000 per ton of waste. The sorting costs actually incurred were also much higher than expected...

The New Fee Schedule

In 1993, the German government intervened and brought about some changes to the shareholder structure and the board of directors at DSD. All members together decided to provide US$ 614 million in credit to DSD and to allow it to collect the license fees in advance...

The Green Dot is a Success

The Packaging Ordinance and the implementation of the Green Dot system produced many tangible results. Both the producers as well as ordinary citizens responded favorably to the law. Between 1991 and 2000, there was a marked reduction in the quantity of packaging waste generated in Germany. “There has been a 14% decrease in the volume of consumer packaging between 1991 and 2000,” Schmitz said...


Despite the high recycling rates, the Green Dot system was also criticized on several grounds and from several quarters. In the initial years, as it had limited capacity to recycle plastics, the DSD started exporting a significant share of the packaging waste that it collected to countries like China, Pakistan, and Indonesia, and officially listed it as “recycled”. Greenpeace's Andreas Bernstorff, who went to these countries to check what happened to the waste, found that the waste was either incinerated or dumped in landfills, sometimes illegally, in the recipient countries...

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