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Germany

Environmental rules

Updated 12/2012

Legal requirements

The competency allocation of the federal states means that the Federal Government is responsible for some aspects of environmental protection while the federal states handle others.

The environmental laws at the federal and state level are generally implemented by the Länder. The highest national authority for environmental matters is the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The 16 federal states also have their own environment ministries.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment collates all Acts and Regulations within its area of competence. This is broken down into the following fields:

Environmental control

Waste management

The aim of the ‘Act to promote closed cycle waste management and environmentally sustainable waste disposal’ (Closed Cycle Waste Management and Disposal Act – KrW-/AbfG) and the sub-statutory regulations it is based on to encourage the avoidance and recycling of waste and to promote its environmentally sustainable disposal.

The so-called ‘polluter pays principle’. Meaning that persons who generate or own commercial or industrial waste are obliged to dispose of it, which also includes separating and treating different types of waste. Waste from private households, on the other hand, is disposed of as a public service by the local authorities, or by the persons who place the products in circulation (the principle of product-based waste management).

A key aspect of the Act is the responsibility that it places on manufacturers and distributors for any waste left over at the end of the lifecycle of their products (product responsibility). Individual provisions (e.g. Acts or Regulations) relating to product responsibility may stipulate that manufacturers and distributors, and some private systems, must take back end-of-life products. Such obligations apply for example to packaging materials, old cars, batteries, oil and electrical appliances.

Chemicals

The basis for the production, marketing, use and labelling of Chemicals (substances, mixtures and preparations) is provided at the European level by Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 (EC REACH Regulation) and Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 (EC CLP Regulation), supplemented in Germany by the Chemicals Act and other provisions based on it such as the Chemicals Prohibition Regulation, the Hazardous Substances Regulation and the Chemicals Penalty Regulation.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), where manufacturers and importers have to register substances, works with the competent national authorities to ensure that the REACH Regulation is applied consistently in the Member States. You can also find extensive information on the precise content of the REACH Regulation on the ECHA home page. The Federal Agency for Chemicals in Dortmund runs the so-called ‘REACH Helpdesk ’, tasked with advising companies on their REACH responsibilities. The REACH Helpdesk is connected to the equivalent national information centres in the other Member States. Its services are free of charge.

With the directive 98/8/EG (EC-Biocide Directive) rules for the marketing of biocidal products have been introduced EU wide. The European biocidal law rules, that biocidal products may only be market, once all included aktive components for the use of biocidal products have been approved and the respective biocidal product has been approved for use. The basic provisions of the EC Biocidal Directive, such as requirement for approval, approval procedure and approval requirements, have been implemented in Germany in Section IIa of the Chemicals Act (ChemG). In addition, details of the approval procedure of the Biocidal Approval Regulation are defined.

All products already on the market before the entry into force of the EC Biocidal Directive must also be registered in accordance with the Biocides Notification Regulation. Starting from 1 September 2013 all hitherto European regulations will be replaced by the new Regulation (EU) Nr.528/2012 concerning the making available on the market and the use of biocidal products (EU Biocidal Directive), which in some places contains procedural rules that continue in substance and are EU centralised. Consequently the German Chemicals Act will also be adapted appropriately.

The licences for biocidal products are issued by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in Dortmund.

The marketing and labelling of washing and cleaning agents are covered by the Washing and Cleaning Agents Act and the Regulation on Maximum Permissible Phosphate Levels which is based upon it. The Washing and Cleaning Agents Act (WRMG) regulates the production, the labelling and the distribution of washing and cleaning agents in the Federal German Republic. The WRMG implements the allowance of the EC Detergents Regulation (VO (EC) Nr.648/2004) nationally. Additionally, §2 WRMG contains regulations for the production and distribution of various products which are not subject to the EC Detegents Regulation. That way, products to clean certain, tensid containing cosmetical solutions are equally regulated by the WRMG as pure cleaning solutions, which will go with the next cleaning into the sewage. Before marketing a product, manufacturers are obliged to provide the Federal Institute for Risk Evaluation (BfR) with a data sheet containing details about the ingredients of their products, in accordance with §10 WRMG. More detailed information about the obligation to notify in accordance with §10 WRMG can be found on the website of the BfR.

In Germany, the production, import, export, circulation, use, recovery, recycling, preparation and destruction of ozone-depleting fully and semi-halogenated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs and HCFCs) the provisions of the Chemicals Ozone Layer Regulation cover are to be followed in addition to the immediately applicable EC Act 2037/2000 for substances used for the destruction of the ozone layer. The Regulation contains provisions on chemicals and waste management that are designed to reduce emissions into the atmosphere of ozone-depleting substances. There are provisions laying down prohibitions and restrictions on certain uses of these substances, rules on recovery and return of such substances and regulations on the maintenance, decommissioning and disposal of equipment and products containing them, including personal requirements placed on the staff involved.

In addition to the Act (EC) No. 842/2006 about certain fluorinated greenhouse gases, there is the Chemicals-Climate Protection Act in Germany. Similar to the Chemicals Ozone Layer Act Regulation, it contains provisions on chemicals and waste that are designed to significantly reduce emissions of certain climate-damaging fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-Gases) into the atmosphere by preventing or minimising leaks in appliances that contain such gases and by obliging producers to take back such equipment and provide proof of competence.

Certain conditions apply when transporting dangerous goods, e.g. in transport containers, carnets, identification and marking.

Monitoring of the above mentioned laws and acts is the responsibility of the authorities tasked with this under federal state law.

Water

In terms of water conservancy business must comply with various Acts and Regulations. Bodies of water (inland lakes, coastal waters and groundwater) are managed by the State. Therefor any use of water – with a few exceptions – requires an official permit or approval.

For example, removing and withdrawing water and discharging substances, particularly waste water, constitute uses that require an official permit or approval. The same applies to storing, lowering or diverting water. Activities liable to cause lasting or significantly harmful changes to the physical, chemical or biological composition of the groundwater are also considered to be uses requiring a permit. These also include safety measures in plants that handle substances harmful to water.

Provisions applicable throughout Germany can be found in the following Acts:

You can find out more on the provisions covering the protection of bodies of water and groundwater on the website of the Federal Environment Ministry:

Climate and air

In Germany, the European emissions trading system is mainly implemented by the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Act (TEHG).

For the 2008-2012 allocation period, the total number of permits to be issued by Germany, and the rules for allocating them, are set out in the Allocation Act 2012.

Just under ten per cent of the permits to be issued by Germany are sold. From 2010 onwards, this will be done by auction; the process is defined in the Emissions Trading Auction Regulation 2012 (EHVV 2012).

With regards to air pollution control, the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) is applicable:

Some plants listed in the Regulation on plants requiring a permit (4th BImSchG) require immission control approval before they can be built and operated (§§ 4, 6 BImSchG). These include combustion facilities, chemical or agricultural plants.

For approval procedures, the BImSchG is applicable along with the Regulation laying down the approval procedure (9th BImSchV).

The federal Länder are responsible for implementing the approval procedure. If an existing plant is to be modified, the change must be notified (§15 BImSchG); in some cases, this change may also require approval, which must be granted before the change is made (§16 BImSchG). Even where no approval is required for a given plant, certain immission control requirements still have to be met (§§22 ff. BImSchG).

Noise protection

In Germany, the requirements for noise protection from industrially and commercially used facilities are set out in the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG). The requirements of the BImSchG are intended to safeguard the area around industrial facilities from significant annoyance caused by noise immissions.

Some plants are not only subject to approval under planning regulations, but also require immission control approval in accordance with Section 4 BImSchG. Plants subject to approval are listed in the Act on Plants Requiring Approval (4th BImSchV). The operator’s responsibilities set out in Section 5 BImSchG apply to plants requiring immission control approval. This states that such plants must be constructed in such a way that no environmental damage from noise, etc., can be caused, and that precautions are taken to prevent any harm to the environment.

For plants not requiring immission control approval, the operator’s responsibilities listed in § 22 BImSchG apply. This states that these plants must be constructed and operated in such a way that environmental damage from noise etc. is prevented, where the state of technology allows; any unavoidable environmental impact must be kept to a minimum.

The immission control standards for assessing noise immissions from plants are laid down in the Sixth General Administrative Regulation to the Federal Immission Control Act (Technical instructions on protection against noise – TA Lärm) of 26 August 1998, based on §48 BImSchG.

Nuclear safety

The fundamental rules on nuclear safety, radiation protection and the procurement and disposal of radioactive materials are laid down in the ‘Act on the peaceful use of atomic energy and protection against the associated hazards’ (Atomic Energy Act) of 23 December 1959.

Along with its stated purpose and general provisions, the Atomic Energy Act also includes monitoring requirements, basic provisions on the responsibilities of the administrative authorities, liability rules and financial penalties. It forms the basis for various Regulations that define the requirements in more detail.

Requirements for radiation protection include, especially, the Radiation Protection Regulation, which is based on the Atomic Energy Act.

For approving and supervising the various plants, facilities, activities and works, a number of bodies, most of them federal state authorities, are responsible. In the area of radiation protection, the responsibility rests with the highest federal state authorities and the other bodies subordinate to them within the Länder.

A consistent interpretation of the legal requirements and a harmonised approval process are assured by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), which monitors legality and fitness for purpose.

Detailed descriptions of the legislative framework and its implementation and of the authorities concerned can be found in the following:

with reference to nuclear power plants, the report from the Federal Republic of Germany to the Fifth Review Meeting for the Agreement on Nuclear Safety (for notes on Articles 7 and 8, see pages 15-49).

With reference to the procurement and disposal of radioactive materials, the report from the Federal Republic of Germany to the Fourth Review Meeting under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Use of Spent Fuel and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (for notes on Articles 19 and 20, see pages 110-144).

A collection of links to all Acts and Regulations relating to nuclear safety, radiological protection and the procurement and disposal of radioactive materials can be found at.

Further information on this topic can be obtained from the web site of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum environmental legal requirements at their own initiative.

Administrative procedures

Declaration procedures

Chemicals

Under the EC REACH Regulation, manufacturers and distributors must register with the ECHA in Helsinki any substances that they produce or import in quantities exceeding 1 tonne per year. The ECHA imposes data requirements based on the existing procedure for new substances – with higher thresholds – and tiered according to the production volume and potential risk.

More details on the requirements for permit applications can be found in the section on ‘Permits and licences’.

Water

Under the devolution of competences laid down in the German constitution, water management is a matter of the federal states. This means that the legal implementation of water management procedures is left to each of the 16 federal Länder. The practical and judicial competences may therefore vary from one federal state to another. In particular, it is up to the individual federal states to decide which authorities should be responsible for implementing the Water Management Act, what procedures should be followed (including the involvement of the general public) and what means should be used to enforce the laws. The Länder can also determine whether applications must be submitted within specified deadlines and how long the proceedings should last.

For information on the relevant federal state laws, please refer to the web sites of the environment ministries in the individual Länder.

Climate and air

Within the emissions trading system, the operators of the plants concerned have to report on their emissions each year (§ 5 TEHG).

The Data Collection Regulation 2012 introduces reporting obligations on emissions from activities that are going to be incorporated into emissions trading. These are air traffic, included from 2012, and new types of plant, included from 2013.

If an existing plant covered by the emissions trading system should be modified, this change must be notified to the competent authority at least one month before it is implemented, if the change could have an effect on emissions (Section 4(9) TEHG). This provision is implemented by the Länder.

If an existing plant that falls within the provisions of the Federal Immission Control Act should be modified, this change must be notified in writing to the competent authority at least one month before work is due to start (§ 15 BImSchG).

For information on the relevant federal state laws, please refer to the web sites of the environment ministries in the individual Länder.

Noise protection

Where plants subject to approval under immission control law are concerned, application documents on Noise protection must be submitted together with the other application documents required for the immission control approval procedure. The approval procedure is laid down in the ‘Regulation on the approval procedure’ (9th BImSchV). The division of competences set out in the German constitution places the responsibility for implementing the approval procedure on the authorities empowered to do so under federal state law.

Where plants not subject to approval under immission control law are concerned, but where planning approval proceedings have to be conducted under federal state law, the procedure is defined by the Land concerned. Federal state law may for example stipulate that documents must be presented for a review of the operator’s immission control obligations.

Nuclear safety

See notes in the next section on ‘Permits and licences’.

Permits and licences

Chemicals

The use of certain particularly worrying substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic substances and long-lived pollutants accumulating in the body) may be made subject to licensing by the European Commission. Obligations for admission, approval and registration can, in particular, be obtained from the REACH and Biocidal Act, and labeling obligations can be obtained from the CLP Act.

More detailed information can be obtained from the ECHA home page and the national REACH helpdesk. In Germany, helpdesks for REACH, CLP and biocides are sublitted to the Federal Agency for Labour Protection and Industrial Medicine (BAuA) in Dortmund. The BAuA is also the responsible Federal Authority for execution of REACH, CLP and Biocidal Acts (and Regulations) in Germany.

The commercial marketing of substances identified as toxic and highly toxic under the Chemicals Prohibition Regulation requires the permission of the responsible authority.

In addition, one needs to consider that the import and export of certain dangerous chemicals in and out of the EU in accordance with the EC-PIC-Act (Act (EC) No. 689/2008) may require a notification. German exporters of chemicals, which are vorbidden in the EC or subject to strict limitations, must inform the Federal Agency for Chemicals with the BAuA about the exportation of said substances. During the export of certain chemicals, which are regulated according to the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) action, import restrictions of the recipient countries must also be followed.

Maintenance, inspection, recuperation and retraction of F-gases may only be carried out by qualified staff to avoid discharges of substances into the atmosphere. The Chemicals Climate Protection Regulation (§5 ChemKlimaschutzV) therefore contains mandatory provisions covering personal requirements, in particular technical knowledge and reliability, for certain activities, and requirements for staff training, testing and certification. The relevant regulation is part of the Chemicals-Ozon Layer Act (§5 ChemOzonSchichtV), referring to certain ozon layer damaging substances.

General information on the subject of chemicals can be found on the relevant web pages of the Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Environment Agency:

Useful links relating to the chemical safety of individual products such as cleaning agents or F-gases can be found on the following pages:

Water

Permits and approvals should be refused where harmful changes to water may be expected. Under the division of competences laid down in the German constitution, water management is a matter of the federal states. This means that the implementation of water management procedures is left to each of the 16 federal Länder.

The practical and judicial competences may therefore vary from one federal state to another. In particular, it is up to the individual federal states to decide which authorities should be responsible for implementing the water management laws, what procedures should be followed and what means should be used to enforce the laws. The Länder can also determine whether applications must be submitted within specified deadlines and how long the proceedings should last.

For information on the relevant rules and procedures in the federal states, please refer to the web sites of the environment ministries in the individual Länder.

Climate and air

The release of greenhouse gases by plants covered by the emissions trading system requires approval (§ 4 Section 1 TEHG, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Act). For plants that require approval under immission control law, immission control approval also constitutes approval to release greenhouse gases (Section 4(6) TEHG). The federal Länder are responsible for granting approval.

Some plants listed in the Regulation on plants requiring a permit (4th BImSchV) require immission control approval before they can be built and operated (§§ 4, 6 BImSchG). These include combustion facilities, chemical or agricultural plants. Along with the BImSchG, the Regulation laying down the approval procedure (9th BImSchV) should be observed. The federal Länder are responsible for implementing the approval procedure. Some changes to existing plants also require approval, which must be granted before the changes are made (Section 16 BImSchG).

Further information on the form and content and on the competent authority can be found on the web sites of the Länder.

Noise protection

According to § 6 BImSchG (the Federal Immission Control Act), a permit may be granted for a plant requiring immission control approval where it can be shown that the obligations arising from § 5 BImSchG, including those relating to protection against noise, have been met. The approval procedure satisfies the requirements of the IPPC Directive 2008/1/EC.

Where planning approval proceedings have to be conducted for a plant requiring immission control approval, these may be defined differently in the different Länder.

Nuclear safety

To protect against the risks arising from radioactive substances and to monitor their use, the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) makes the construction and operation of nuclear facilities subject to an official approval. The conditions and procedures for granting permits and exercising the supervision are laid down in the Atomic Energy Act (AtG). However, most of the provisions set out there are not final, but are specified in more detail, both in terms of procedures and materials, in Regulations and other legislation.

For some activities, the Atomic Energy Act lays down an approval requirement. Under Section 7 AtG, for example, the construction or ownership of a fixed facility for the generation, handling, processing or fission of nuclear fuels, any substantial change to the plant or its operation, and the decommissioning of such a plant, require a permit. There are similar provisions in Section 6 AtG for the storage of nuclear fuels; in Section 9 AtG for the handling, processing and other use of nuclear fuels outside plants of the type specified in Section 7 AtG; and in Section 9b AtG for plants handling and storing radioactive waste. The Radiological Protection Regulation contains approval and reporting obligations for other radiation-producing activities and work (Section 3 of the Regulation).

Inspections

Water

The responsibilities and powers of the water conservancy body are set out (from 1 March 2010) at the federal level in §§ 100 to 102 of the new Water Management Act (BGBl. I 2009, p. 2585) and also (up to 1 March 2010) in the water management laws of the federal Länder.

Under the division of competences laid down in the German constitution, water management is a matter of the federal states. This means that the implementation of water management procedures is left to each of the 16 federal Länder. The practical and judicial competences may therefore vary from one federal state to another. In particular, it is up to the individual federal states to decide which authorities should be responsible for implementing the Water Management Act, what procedures should be followed. The Länder can also determine whether applications must be submitted within specified deadlines and how long the proceedings should last.

For information on the relevant rules and procedures in the federal states, please refer to the web sites of the environment ministries in the individual Länder.

Climate and air

Within the emissions trading system, monitoring is covered by § 21 TEHG. It is handled partly by the federal states and partly at the federal government.

The monitoring of air pollution control is based on various provisions (incl. §§ 26-29a, § 52ff. BImSchG). On-going monitoring is carried out in accordance with § 27 BImSchG (emissions declarations by certain plants listed in full in the 11th BImSchV) and on the basis of the European PRTR Regulation and its German Implementing Act (SchadRegProtAG).

Further information on the form and content and on the competent authority can be found on the web sites of the federal states.

Noise protection

Even after granting a permit for a plant requiring emission control approval, the competent authority is allowed under § 17 BImSchG (to issue orders to operators to meet their obligations – particularly in relation to the necessary Noise protection).

For plants that do not require immission control approval, Section 24 BImSchG allows the competent authority to issue the orders needed to implement Section 22 BImSchG in any given case.

Nuclear safety

Throughout their service life, including construction and decommissioning, nuclear facilities are subject to on-going state supervision according to the Atomic Energy Act and the associated atomic energy Regulations, after the necessary permit has been granted.

Resources

The key environmental regulations of the Länder can be found on the legal portal ‘Justiz-Online’.

Programmes

To help businesses comply with environmental rules, the Federal Government, federal states und EU award financial aid within the framework of various support programmes.

Help & advice

Help & advice

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