September/October 2019

Germany is currently experiencing a plastics crisis. Criticism is being voiced at the steadily increasing consumption of plastics and the unsatisfactory recycling rates of around 30% in Europe at present. Politics, business, society and technology must all pull together in order to use more recycling materials in new products in the future. This will entail not only a modernization of the rules for the use of recycled plastic but also technical challenges.

This starts with product design where the recyclability of the products must be taken into account. This can only be achieved by reducing the number of material components.

Particularly in packaging recycling, the recovery rates defined in the German Packaging Act must be achieved. For this reason, a first minimum standard has now been published in Germany for measuring design that is suitable for recycling (Federal Environment Agency).

However, this is only one step in the right direction. It is much more important to promote the processing of recyclable plastic. Already functioning collection and sorting structures must be expanded, investments in processing capacity for recycling plastic must be promoted and installed throughout Germany and Europe.

In order to promote the recycling of plastic waste and to implement its separate collection, there are plans for a federal uniform collection of recyclable materials. Together with packaging, other product waste made of plastic (and metal) is to be collected and recycled. If the collection of packaging is extended to a collection of recyclable materials, further material flows can be generated for recycling, thus relieving the burden on the environment. In various municipalities and districts, projects for the so­called recycling bin are in the test phase or have already been implemented - for example, the Yellow Bin Plus in Leipzig and the recycling bin in Berlin. Through several research projects, the Federal Environment Agency has provided the scientific basis for the introduction of a more comprehensive collection of recyclable materials and for the adaptation of recycling specifications.

Commercial plastic waste in particular - which today often accumulates as mixtures and is therefore still far too little recycled - offers great potential for material recycling. The draft amendment to the Industrial Waste Ordinance provides for the priority in future of keeping these wastes separate so that they can then be recycled to a high standard. Mixtures produced nevertheless are to be sorted in sorting plants with a minimum technical standard in order to open up the recyclable materials contained therein for mechanical recycling.

Stephanie Kötter-Gribbe  - Stephanie Kötter-Gribbe  (Germany)

Stephanie Kötter-Gribbe

Best Plastic Management GmbH (DEU), Board Member of the BIR Plastics Committee

September/October 2019