Circular Economy Act

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Basic data
Title: Law to promote the circular economy and ensure environmentally friendly waste management
Short title: Circular Economy Act
Previous title: Recycling and Waste Act
Abbreviation: KrWG
Type: Federal law
Scope: Federal Republic of Germany            
Legal matter: Special administrative law , environmental law
References : 2129-56
Original version from: September 27, 1994
( BGBl. I p. 2705 )
Entry into force on: October 6, 1996
Last revision from: February 24, 2012
( BGBl. I p. 212 )
Entry into force of the
new version on:
predominantly June 1, 2012
Last change by: Art. 2 G of July 20, 2017
( Federal Law Gazette I p. 2808, 2833 )
Effective date of the
last change:
July 29, 2017
(Art. 4 G of July 20, 2017)
GESTA : N031
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.

The Recycling Management Act ( KrWG ) is the central federal law of German waste law .

Purpose of the law

According to Section 1 of the KrWG, the purpose of the law is to promote the circular economy in order to conserve natural resources and to ensure the environmentally friendly management of waste.

The aim of the Recycling Management Act is to reduce waste, especially the waste to be landfilled . First and foremost, there is the avoidance of waste , for example by doing without packaging or using it several times (example: using reusable beverage packaging ). Since packaging for food is required in many cases, for example to increase its shelf life or to facilitate storage, the necessary packaging should be recycled. Raw materials are kept in a cycle for as long as possible and managed sustainably in order to protect resources and the environment.

The term Circular Economy Act gives the impression that the recycling of waste that has not been avoided has priority. But this is not the case. The necessary defense against hazards requires first of all to destroy pollutants in waste or to smuggle them out of the waste and safely, i. H. to be stored as isolated as possible from the environment. The most important method of destroying pollutants is waste incineration: organic pollutants are destroyed, heavy metals end up in the filter dust and are disposed of as hazardous waste . In the past, people also experimented with smoldering systems. In some regions there are biological-mechanical waste treatment plants in operation, which repeatedly have problems meeting the technical requirements for the material to be landfilled.

Waste treatment is not only used to destroy harmful substances. Since non-recyclable, treated waste has to be disposed of in landfills, the significant reduction in so-called residual waste also protects the landscape. Because of popular resistance to new landfills and waste incineration plants, a waste disposal bottleneck loomed at the end of the 1980s.

One of the alternatives to the recycling law discussed in politics around 1990 was a waste tax law. For example, levies on waste to be landfilled can be used to create an incentive to recycle waste. Where the value of the so-called secondary raw materials is insufficient to cover the costs of recycling, a landfill levy can make recycling profitable.

The last amendment to the Recycling Management Act supplemented the target hierarchy for handling waste. In accordance with the requirements of a new EU waste directive, the preparation for reuse (which is of little practical importance) was also mentioned. Material recycling (no change in the material, see melting down of metals or plastics) now has priority as "recycling" over the energetic recovery of waste (use of the energetic content of waste).

This results in the following hierarchy of objectives when dealing with waste:

These are priorities that need to be handled flexibly precisely for reasons of environmental protection. This means that it is always possible to prove that it is necessary to deviate from the target hierarchy for certain types of waste. Recycling measures must be technically possible and economically justifiable. The focus of the discussion is therefore always on the question of which instruments (requirements and prohibitions, levies, take-back obligations, etc.) should and must be used in order to achieve the legal goals.


The KrWG is divided into nine parts and four annexes:

  1. General rules
  2. Principles and duties of the producers and owners of waste as well as the public waste disposal authorities,
  3. Product responsibility,
  4. Planning responsibility,
  5. Sales promotion and waste advice,
  6. Monitoring,
  7. Waste management companies,
  8. Company organization, company representative for waste and relief for audited company locations,
  9. Final provisions.
  • Appendix 1: Disposal Procedure
  • Appendix 2: Recovery process
  • Appendix 3: Criteria for determining the state of the art
  • Annex 4: Examples of waste prevention measures according to § 33


The KrWG regulates the disposal of waste. These should be avoided as far as possible, possibly recycled materially or energetically, residues treated and then - reduced in volume - removed.

Recyclable materials must always be separated, then collected and, if necessary, sorted. Sorting residues that cannot be used must be treated (in practice mostly incinerated; the aim is to destroy - predominantly organic - pollutants). The slag has to be removed, usually deposited.

The approval of waste disposal systems that are not landfills, such as waste incineration plants , is not subject to the KrWG, but to the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG). The preparation, treatment and final storage of radioactive waste (regulated in the Atomic Energy Act [AtG]) are also excluded from the regulations of the KrWG . The removal of:


In terms of avoidance, recycling and waste treatment, the KrW- / AbfG of 1996 went far beyond the then still poor requirements of the European Union. Above all, the producer responsibility, anchored for the first time in German waste law (a forerunner was the Packaging Ordinance) with its take-back obligations, has inspired European environmental legislation. The Green Dot of the Dual System Germany (DSD) was gradually adopted by many European countries with adjustments to the structures there. Germany played a pioneering role in waste law in particular.

The trigger for the last amendment to waste law from 2012, now only called the Recycling Management Act (KrWG), was the entry into force of a new general EU waste framework directive ( Directive 2008/98 / EC on waste ). During the implementation of the directive, the text of the German Waste Act had to be comprehensively revised, namely because of a new terminology in the EU directive in many respects. New terms have been introduced and known terms have been redefined. So only the material recovery is called recycling. The scope of the new legal texts should not imply a large number of changes in substantive law. The opposite is the case. Wherever the amendment develops German waste law, it is almost always a question of optimizing the waste management system (see the many incorrect throws in the yellow and residual waste bins; this is why certain materials are to be recorded in a uniform recycling bin in the future).

European and German waste law are therefore not completely identical. As a rule, Germany has stricter requirements, also because waste management is more advanced here than in other member states. Of course, in this case, too, there is a dispute with one or the other provision as to whether the national legislation fully implements the requirements of the EU.

EU circular economy legislative package (2018)

The EU legislative package on the circular economy came into force on July 4, 2018. It contains amendments to the main waste legislation. In addition to the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98 / EC), this also includes the Packaging Directive, the Electrical Equipment Directive, the Battery Directive, the End of Life Vehicle Directive and the Landfill Directive. The revised guidelines must be implemented in national law by July 5, 2020. A corresponding amendment to the Recycling Management Act was passed in the Federal Cabinet on February 12, 2020.

legal framework


The KrWG is supplemented by a whole series of statutory ordinances that were issued on the basis of the corresponding authorizations in the previous KrW- / AbfG. As a rule, they serve to specify and complete the provisions of the KrWG for waste directories and waste monitoring, requirements for waste disposal, operational regulations, product and production-related regulations as well as the treatment of sewage sludge and bio-waste . These ordinances include in particular:

Administrative regulations

The previous KrW- / AbfG was also given concrete form by various administrative regulations , in particular by the Technical Instructions on Waste (TA Abfall dated March 12, 1991) and the Technical Instructions on Municipal Waste (TA Siedlungsabfall of May 14, 1993). Both administrative regulations were repealed on April 27, 2009 by the “General administrative regulation for the repeal of administrative regulations on landfill law” (entered into force on July 16, 2009). The reason for the repeal was that due to the statutory and sub-statutory waste law changes that have taken place since the administrative regulations came into force, the requirements of the administrative regulations no longer represent the state of the art. In addition, contradictions with statutory regulations, such as the Evidence Ordinance , should be avoided through the repeal.

State law

In addition to federal law , there is also the waste law of the respective federal states , which for their part usually have waste laws with supplementary provisions as well as other statutory ordinances and administrative provisions.

Structure of the waste management sector

Many waste management companies are active in the circular economy . There are municipal companies or legally independent companies in the cities and districts. The same tasks, including collecting waste, are performed by private waste disposal companies. The municipalities are free to decide whether they will act themselves (see municipal cleaning companies) or advertise services to fulfill their tasks (2nd disposal path).

The private disposal industry is also active on behalf of companies (1st disposal path) and dual systems / in particular DSD (3rd disposal path). For these, she also regularly takes on the sorting of mixed waste.

When it comes to recycling, many municipalities only have waste incineration plants (MVA) that can be used to generate energy, as well as composting plants. Apart from the disposal of residual waste from households, these systems are in competition with private recyclers. Except for green waste, municipalities have no recycling facilities. The sorted waste is recycled by private waste management companies. Municipalities must finance the treatment and disposal of the sorting residues. Large companies sometimes recycle in their own facilities.

When it comes to waste treatment (predominantly incineration), municipal and private waste incineration plants are in tough competition because there is overcapacity after the establishment of an efficient recycling industry. The municipal umbrella organizations therefore demand that further waste be allocated to them. Some - first and foremost the Association of Municipal Waste Management Companies - openly question parts of producer responsibility. In some cases, you accuse the private waste management industry of sham recycling .

The same private companies are often active on all three disposal channels: they collect, transport, sort, recycle and treat waste, and finally dispose of the sorting residues in their landfills. Where a disposal company cannot offer individual services, it engages other companies - usually after sorting -, in individual cases also municipalities that traditionally have incineration plants and landfills.

The differences between identical services are legal and financial. Depending on the allocation of the waste to commercial waste, residual waste from private households or the scope of return and take-back obligations, the costs are borne by private companies, the municipalities or the producers of the goods.


  • Versteyl / Mann / Schomerus: Commentary on the Recycling Management Act (KrWG), 2019, Verlag CH Beck, ISBN 978-3-406-73416-8
  • Schmehl / Klement (Ed.): Community commentary on the Recycling Management Act (GK-KrWG), 2019, Verlag Carl Heymanns. ISBN 978-3-452-28984-1
  • Kopp-Assenmacher: Commentary on the Recycling Management Act (KrWG), 2015, Erich Schmidt Verlag. ISBN 978-3-503-12493-0
  • Jarass / Petersen: Commentary on the Recycling Management Act (KrWG), 2014, Verlag CHBeck, ISBN 978-3-406-65192-2
  • Journal of Waste Management Law -WasteR, Lexxion. ISSN 2190-8117

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Andrea Vetter: The recycling law . In: VBlBW . 33rd vol., H. 6, 2012, p. 201, ISSN  0720-2407 .
  2. Gerhard Friedrich: EU enforces a new recycling law , Zeitschrift für Rechtssppolitik 4/2011, p. 108 ff.
  3. ^ Draft law for the implementation of the European Union's Waste Framework Directive - BMU laws and ordinances. Retrieved February 12, 2020 .
  4. Süddeutsche Zeitung: Schulze wants to stop the destruction of goods. Retrieved February 12, 2020 .