Lost in translation - what does the Green Dot symbol really represent?

Laura Rimmer, International Compliance Manager, explains what the Green Dot symbol represents and where it came from.

Do you know what the Green Dot actually represents?

This symbol has been known to cause confusion, as some people wrongly assume that it is a recycling symbol placed on packaging to indicate that the particular piece of packaging can be recycled.

Others think that all producers are required to place this symbol on packaging to signify that they have financially contributed towards the recycling of their share of packaging waste. This is partially true, but only affects those that export packaged goods to countries that have implemented the Green Dot packaging waste system, or producers that have a presence within those countries, but we’ll discuss this in further detail later.

So why does the symbol exist?

Back in 1992, the European Union introduced the Packaging Waste Directive to try and reduce the amount of packaging ending up in landfill. The Directive stipulated that producers should pay towards the recycling of a share of the packaging that they place onto the market.

Each Member State implemented their own system to meet the requirements of the Directive and the UK devised the unique Packaging Waste Recovery Note (PRN) system, which is still used today.

Germany chose a different route and set up an organisation called Duales System Deutschland AG (DSD). DSD created the Green Dot trademark symbol (Der Grune Punkt), which was designed to act like a receipt or financing mark, while raising consumer awareness. While the symbol was a mandatory requirement until 2009, its use is now voluntary. However, it is commonly an expectation of German distributors, who regularly request its addition to packaging from their overseas suppliers. Any packaging which displays the symbol must be licensed with DSD.

Some other European countries followed suit and adopted the Green Dot system to meet their own packaging waste targets. However, the application of the system often varies from country to country.

Why would a UK company need a Green Dot licence?

If your business exports products then it’s very important to find out whether or not the country or countries that you are exporting to require the Green Dot symbol to be displayed on packaging.

Many businesses that are required to display the Green Dot on packaging choose to display it on all packaging; not just export packaging, to save costs on separate print runs. If this is the case the business will have to pay an annual UK licence fee (unless their compliance scheme can waive the cost of this), as the symbol is a trademark agreement. It also likely that your business will need to do the same in most countries that it exports to, so it’s wise to investigate further.

A company is breaking the law if it displays the symbol but does not hold a licence.

Valpak can help

Valpak’s International Compliance Service helps organisations that export to understand their potential requirements in other countries.

We can:

  • identify regulations and requirements
  • send free quarterly update mailings
  • create research reports
  • carry out registrations
  • liaise with all schemes/authorities
  • collect and submit data
  • assist with audits

If you would like to find out if your business could be affected by environmental legislation in other countries or would like further help and advice regarding the use of the Green Dot please do not hesitate to contact us on 03450 682 572 or email info@valpak.co.uk