News update 16 March 2021: the French State Council (Conseil d'État) has suspended the entry into force of the new French labelling regulation for packaging. Grüne Punkt and PRO Europe won an urgent court case on this and as a result Grüne Punkt will still be allowed in France after 1 April 2021.
The news that France forbids the use of the Grüne Punkt marking came as a surprise to many companies.
The Grüne Punkt (Green Dot / Le Point Vert) marking has become well-known since its introduction in the early 1990's and its usage is still common in many countries. Until 2017 the marking was still mandatory on packaging in France but now it will be banned. So, what happened?
It started with the French law of 10 February 2020 (LOI 2020-1051) related to waste and the circular economy.
One of the objectives of this law is to reduce the diversity of markings on packaging in order to clarify the information for consumers. Unnecessary markings potentially create confusion and will therefore be forbidden.
On 24 December 2020 a Decision (Arrêté2) was published in French law that gives more details on this.
It describes certain markings that may lead to confusion about the sorting, collection and recycling of packaging waste. The Decision applies from 1 January 2021, penalties will be imposed three months later
The Decision does not mention Grüne Punkt directly, but it describes markings "representing two or more arrows rolled up and inscribed in a circle" as confusing and prohibited.
It is obvious that this definition fits the Grüne Punkt marking.
The Grüne Punkt license symbol indicates that a fee has been paid to one of the participating organisations for recovery, sorting and recycling of packaging (see www.pro-e.org). The symbol does not literally mean that the packaging is recyclable (only that a license fee was paid) and this feeds the argument that the marking is confusing to consumers and shall be discarded.
The Decision includes three situations where markings remain permitted:
Due to the judgment of the French court the following dates are no longer valid. A final judgment on a possible ban of Grüne Punkt in France will be concluded after the main court proceedings have been completed.
From 1 April 2021, the Grüne Punkt marking has to disappear from all packaging in France. There is a transitional period of 18 months until 1 October 2022 for packaging already on the market before 1 April 2021.
An exemption exists for packaging that is also placed on the market in Spain or Cyprus, because in these member states Grüne Punkt is mandatory by law. Here the transitional period is 12 months; if this packaging is on the market before 1 January 2022 then it is allowed until 1 January 2023.