A general definition is quickly found. A sticker is a small haptic plate of any shape and colour and a registration, in contrast, is a process of entering information into a directory or database. But what about environmental stickers and registrations for environmental zones?
To enter European environmental zones, you usually need a sticker or a registration. In both cases, it generally doesn't matter in which country your car is registered. In some countries there is neither a registration nor a sticker, but you still have to fulfil the conditions of the environmental zone to be allowed to enter.
Stickers are usually available where checks are carried out by people, i.e. manually. Thanks to the sticker, which must be affixed to your vehicle's windscreen, people can see immediately that your vehicle complies with the conditions of the environmental zone and is allowed to enter. Another advantage is that the sticker only has to be applied for once and is usually valid indefinitely. For example, if you have a green German environmental sticker, you can always drive in the German environmental zones. However, there are also some diesel no-driving zones in Germany for which there are no stickers. In these zones, vehicles are subjected to a time-consuming manual inspection based on the vehicle registration document.
In France there are stickers with different colours, depending on the Euro standard and fuel type of your vehicle. Depending on the colour of the sticker, you may or may not enter an environmental zone. This makes sense because, unlike in Germany, the rules for environmental zones in France are not uniform. The cities and municipalities decide for themselves which stickers they allow to enter the zones. In the temporary environmental zones in France, this also means that different stickers can be banned depending on the degree of air pollution.
In other countries, such as Belgium and England, vehicles are not checked manually, but electronically with the help of cameras. There you have to register your car before entering. The registration is limited in time, so you have to register again in Brussels after three years. There is no sticker. When you enter an environmental zone, your car's number plate is scanned. If your number plate is not registered, you will be fined. Only vehicles that meet the conditions of the zone can be registered. In Denmark, the sticker was replaced by registration last year. However, registration is only required for some older vehicles. The rules here are quite confusing. We will take a close look at these in one of our next guides.
In Spain there are only stickers for Spanish vehicles, registration for foreign vehicles is required in Barcelona and Madrid.
So each country has its own ways of controlling the environmental zones. It is difficult to keep track of everything.
By the way, do you know the bureaucratic madness of the stickers in Germany? For the green environmental zones, you need a green environmental sticker. This has to be affixed to the windscreen from the inside. For the eco-lanes in Germany you need an E-plate or, for foreigners, a blue E-sticker. This is affixed to the outside of the rear window. Why? At first glance, this is not comprehensible, not even at second glance. But ask us, we have the answer!