The Green Dot was the first recycling system and for a long time the lone symbol for packaging recycling – at least in Germany.
Therefore, many consumers know the Green Dot and it has a high recognition value. Even today, Der Grüne Punkt (German for Green Dot) has the largest market share among all German recycling schemes – and can be found on most packaging. But the trademark has gained international fame as well. Until recently, many countries had made it an obligation to put the Green Dot symbol onto all packaging – to show customers that the producers fulfill their responsibility from the EU packaging waste directive. Thus, a high recognition value among consumers cannot be denied. That is why the Green Dot can be very attractive for marketing purposes, if you want to present your business as sustainable.
But what about e-commerce? Should I be using the Green Dot on e-commerce packaging?
First, it is important to know that you need a license to use the Green Dot for e-commerce. And that is the real problem. There is usually only one compliance scheme in each country that offers the Green Dot license. In Germany, that would be the “Duales System Deutschland GmbH”. If you have licensed your packaging with another compliance scheme, you need an additional contract with the Green Dot licenser and basically pay double fees.
It gets more complicated when you ship to various other countries, because you need an individual Green Dot license in each country. I.e. if you have a Green Dot license in Germany, for instance, you cannot ship products with the Green Dot trademark on them to France. Unless you obtain a French Green Dot license, that is. While most compliance schemes we recommend as part of our service can offer you the Green Dot license in their countries at no additional cost, this means that you even have to sign a contract with them when you actually have no obligations in a country due to minimum thresholds or other reasons. So, while smaller e-commerce businesses are often only obligated in a few countries, as soon as you want to use the Green Dot on your packaging, you’d have to pay the fees in every country. Due to registration fees, minimum fees or administrative fees, this can quickly become very expensive if you ship EU-wide – too expensive for many SMEs or e-commerce startups.
While big online retailers can profit from the marketing potential of the Green Dot, it can quickly become a cost trap for SMEs or startups which offer international shipping.
We therefore recommend to Green Dot primarily to big online retailers with high export turnover in each country so that the license fees are justified. On the other hand, if you solely sell to customers in one country, the Green Dot may also be lucrative due to the comparably low cost and high recognition value.
Hands off the Green Dot if you sell across several countries with low export turnover in most of your markets. In this case, you likely pay too much for the licensing fees and its not worth the additional cost and effort.
Take care if you sell products from other producers with the Green Dot trademark on them to customers abroad.
It is especially dangerous if you sell products abroad for which the producer has only obtained the Green Dot license in your home country. In this case you (as the exporter) are obligated to ensure that the Green Dot license in your target markets are obtained. It is best to clarify with your suppliers whether the required Green Dot licenses abroad have been obtained, or re-pack your products (i.e. remove the Green Dot) before shipping them abroad. Then again, re-packing all products for export will produce the double amount of packaging waste and is arguably not a very sustainable thing to do…
The Green Dot mandatory in Spain
While the Green Dot used to be mandatory on packaging in most European countries, this is today only the case in the packaging law in Spain. France even tried to phase out the Green Dot in 2021 altogether and completely replace it by its own Triman Logo. However, the French Supreme Court has ruled that penalty payments on the Green Dot – which is mandatory in Spain – may be unlawful. The Green Dot may still be used on packaging in France. Yet, since the Green Dot must be licensed in each country separately, international e-commerce businesses that sell to Spain among other countries face high barriers when selling across Europe.
Update on the Green Dot in Spain – 2023:
The Green Dot is now also no longer mandatory in Spain. As in other European countries, you can purchase the licence and voluntarily apply it to your packaging. More information can be found here.
Do you have any additional questions regarding the Green Dot and ist implications for e-commerce? Please let us know!