Denmark has lifted its ban on cans for beer and soft drinks, effective January 23, after bowing to the European Commission in a battle that dates back to 1977.
The ban was imposed on environmental grounds, but the desired effect was to discourage beer imports, and the EC considered it a barrier to trade, thereby violating one of the fundamental principles of the EC Treaty.
In 1994 the EC passed the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive in an attempt to harmonize EC members' management of packaging to provide "a high level of environmental protection" while ensuring the functioning of the market.
Denmark's response was that it would maintain its system of reusing bottles and banning beverage cans. The EC brought action against Denmark in 1999, charging that a member cannot impede the marketing of any packaging that meets the conditions of the directive. Metal cans satisfy the directive because they are easily recycled. When the European Union's advocate general advised the Court of Justice to rule against Denmark and for the EC, Denmark finally relented and lifted the ban.