The Green Dot

By John Kim and Lambros Kromidas, PhD*, Shiseido Americas | March 1, 2017

Insights into one of the most used trademarks in the world.

If you are reading this article, like us, you are probably not well versed with the significance of the Green Dot logo and are curious to know more. Read on—we’ll tell you what we found out researching this subject. Hopefully it will be enough to satisfy your curiosity and be a useful reference tool. Overall, the Green Dot logo represents the financial contribution to organizations of recovery, sorting and recycling of used packaging—primarily household packaging. When you see this symbol (Figure 1) somewhere on the package, it means that a financial contribution was made to a qualified national packaging recovery organization set up in accordance with the principles defined in EU Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste and the respective national laws.1 

Why a ‘Green Dot’ Program?

The first measures on the management of packaging waste was introduced in the early 1980s via Directive 85/339/EEC (European Economic Community; the European Union (EU) did not exist prior to the early 1980s but was referred to as such). This directive set rules on all aspects of the packaging lifecycle, including production, marketing, use, recycling, refilling of containers of liquids for human consumption, and disposal of used containers.2 To further harmonize measures regarding management of packaging and packaging waste, Directive 94/62/EC (European Community—as the region was referred to by 1994) was adopted in 1994.2 

Prior to EU Directive 94/62/EC, European member states started introducing their own measures to address the environmental aspects of packaging and packaging waste.  The first country was Germany, where the first Green Dot organization, “Der Grüne Punkt—Duales System Deutschland GmbH” was founded in 1990 by obliged industry. Next came Austria, France, and Belgium. Of course, this resulted in diverging national legislation that were far from harmonized. The purpose of the European directive was to prevent or reduce waste’s impact on the environment. 

It was also intended to remove or avoid obstacles to trade and the distortion and restriction of competition. Under this directive, Member States are required to:
  • “attain specific percentage targets for the recovery of glass, paper, metal, plastics, etc.” (Article 6)
  • “develop a system of recovery for packaging and/or packaging waste” (Article 7)
  • “pass national laws and regulations to enforce this directive” (Article 22)
This directive was amended by Directive 2004/12/EC to include language regarding “producer responsibility.”2

Article 7 is the essence of Directive 94/62/EC. Based on this article, Member States are required to take the necessary steps to ensure that systems are set up to allow for the return, or collection of packaging waste from the final user and process it by the most appropriate waste management systems such as reuse, recycle or other. This also applies to imported products under non-discriminatory conditions.

How Is It Financed?

The Green Dot program is a fee-based licensing system, which pays respective national packaging waste recovery organizations affiliated with the Green Dot program to handle the recovery of package and packaging waste. To protect the principles of the internal market, in 1995, an umbrella organization for Green Dot systems was founded, PRO Europe s.p.r.l. (Packaging Recovery Organisation Europe).

This organization coordinating European packaging and packaging waste recovery and recycling schemes that mainly use the Green Dot trademark as a financing symbol is PRO Europe (see above). PRO Europe  was established in 1995 to be the general licensor of the Green Dot trademark.3  EU markets that do not have Green Dot  organizations in PRO Europe include Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands and United Kingdom.  These markets, however, do have national legislation to abide by the Package and Packaging Waste Directive.

The Green Dot program fulfills a portion of a company’s package recovery responsibilities as it establishes a network and financing structure to handle this process, particularly for household packaging. Green Dot systems have become internationally recognized models that contribute to the efficient fulfillment of the EU Directive on packaging waste.

To safeguard the Green Dot, it is currently protected as a trademark worldwide in approximately 170 countries.5 Any given company is required to obtain a license for usage of the trademark in each member state, by the appropriate authority. These licenses are granted by participation in the respective Green Dot package recovery organization (see table) with variable fees depending on the member state.5  For the UK, US, Canada and Mexico, licenses are granted to companies by way of an annual fee-based license agreement. For all other countries, PRO Europe offers a royalty-free worldwide license contract for non-Green Dot countries.5

Usage of the Green Dot on the packaging is not a requirement for most EU markets that have a member organization in PRO  Europe, with the exception of Cyprus, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain. For these markets, it is legally required to include the Green Dot logo on packaging if they sign an agreement with the national Green Dot organization. As mentioned, depending on the member state, various fee systems are in place for the financial contribution to the package waste recovery organization. Often the contributions are based on a rate charge based on tonnage of a specific material type such as paper, glass and metal. For the 2017 participation costs see reference 6.

Guidelines of Use

As with any logo, there are specific guidelines for on-pack use of the trademark.  The symbol cannot be altered in any way and it must be used in full, in the right proportions and colors. It must be legible with specific use on colored backgrounds and photographic backgrounds.  There are specifics regarding its surrounding margins and no unauthorized wording or graphics are permitted in connection with the symbol. For detailed instructions on all these guidelines it behooves the reader to
review reference 7.

Conclusion and Outlook

Our aim was to give just enough information about this widely used symbol on packaging to appreciate its use and purpose.  We hope you find it useful to keep as a reference to guide regulatory, packaging, graphics and finance departments in your company.

As of this writing, the European Commission adopted an ambitious package to stimulate Europe’s transition toward a more sustainable and competitive economy referred to as the Circular Economy Package.8,9 Its purpose is to transition the EU economy to maintain, for as long as possible, the value of products, materials and resources, and minimize waste generation. This is expected to contribute toward “closing the loop” on product lifecycle through more recycling and reuse, hopefully bringing benefits for both the environment and the economy.  This proposed package includes amendments for several waste directives including 94/62/EC, on packaging and packaging waste.9  The main points to the proposed amendment to directive 94/62/EC are:
  • No later than Dec. 31, 2025, “the following minimum targets by weight for preparing for reuse and recycling will be met regarding the following specific materials contained in packaging waste:
(i) 55% of plastic;
(ii) 60% of wood;
(iii) 75% of ferrous metal;
(iv) 75% of aluminium;
(v) 75% % of glass;
(vi) 75% of paper and cardboard” and
  • No later than December 31, 2030, the following minimum targets by weight will be met:
“(i) 75% of wood;
(ii) 85% of ferrous metal;
(iii) 85% of aluminium;
(iv) 85% of glass;
(v) 85% of paper and cardboard.”

That includes 75% of all packaging waste by 2030.10  It behooves the interested reader therefore to monitor throughout 2017, the Commission’s actions for implementation of amendments to directive 94/62/EC. 

  1. http://www.pro-e.org/Frequently_Asked_Questions.html#green_dot, retrieved November 2016.
  2. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/packaging/index_en.htm, retrieved November 2016.
  3. http://www.pro-e.org/Overview.html, retrieved November 2016.
  4. http://www.pro-e.org/Information-map.html, retrieved November 2016.
  5. http://www.pro-e.org/Trademark-issues1.html, retrieved November 2016.
  6. http://www.pro-e.org/files/Participation-Costs_2016.pdf, retrieved November 2016.
  7. http://www.pro-e.org/files/Guidelines-for-on-pack-usage-of-the-trade mark.pdf,  retrieved December 2016.
  8. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm, retrieved December 2016.
  9. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52015DC0614, retrieved December 2016.
  10. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52015PC0596, retrieved December 2016.

*Regulatory industry personnel who currently work for Shiseido Americas. Any views and opinions are those of the authors and not reflective of Shiseido Americas policy.
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