Landmark EEC court case on returnable bottles gives boost to environment

The European Court of Justice has dumbfounded the beverage containers and drinks industries but delighted environmentalists by upholding Denmark's right to require beer and soft drinks to be sold only in returnable bottles. The short-term impact will be to encourage restrictive national legislation on packaging, especially plastics. But other industries will also be affected in the long term because the judgment has redefined the level of environmental protection which is permissible before it can be regarded as a barrier to trade under EEC law.

The Court's verdict was delivered on 20 September, almost two years after the European Commission opened legal proceedings against Denmark. The Commission was joined in the case by the UK.

The Danish drinks packaging law was introduced in 1981. It requires beer, soft drinks, mineral waters and lemonade to be marketed only in returnable bottles - effectively imposing a ban on plastic containers. Each bottle type must be approved by the aut

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