Why plastic recycling really fails in Germany

The use of plastic products continues to increase worldwide. This is problematic in two respects. On the one hand, it is a product that is based on fossil raw materials. It takes two tons of crude oil to produce one ton of new plastic. Accordingly, the products are harmful to the environment and the climate. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that a considerable part of the waste is not collected correctly. This then often ends up in the world’s oceans and becomes a threat to entire ecosystems. Even the collected plastic waste is rarely recycled. Instead, most of it ends up in waste incineration plants. At first glance, this seems quite astonishing. Because almost all major consumer goods manufacturers have committed to increasing the proportion of recycled plastic in their own packaging. In fact, almost all of them are still far from their own goals.

The contents of yellow bags and bins are mostly incinerated

The simple reason: There is not enough high-quality recycled material on the market. Normally this would regulate itself at some point through the interplay of supply and demand. But this is where the peculiarities of plastic recycling come into play. Because the easiest and cheapest way to manufacture recyclate is to use pure plastic for it. Many recycling companies therefore cooperate with industrial companies and buy their pre-sorted waste. Here the offer is limited. The plastic waste from the yellow bags and bins in private households, on the other hand, would first have to be sorted in a laborious manner. This drives up costs and makes recycling unattractive. This waste is therefore currently far too often going to the incineration plant. As a result, however, the recycled material on the market remains in great demand – which is what drives the high prices. There is now a controversy between consumer goods manufacturers and recycling companies who is responsible.

Packaging made from a plastic is easier to recycle

In some cases, the consumer is held accountable. If this would sort the garbage better, it could be recycled much more easily, so the argumentation. In theory, this is entirely correct. In practice, Germany is already considered to be the international leader in waste separation. Individual consumers cannot be expected to train themselves to become recycling experts in order not to make mistakes here. The recycling companies therefore want to start much earlier and are demanding better packaging. Because today these often already consist of several plastics and materials. This makes correct sorting and recycling more difficult. If all manufacturers were to rely on packaging that consisted of only one material each, household plastic waste would also be much easier to recycle. So far, however, no breakthrough has been achieved here. The situation therefore remains difficult: the entire recyclate production for 2022 is already sold out.

Via: Handelsblatt

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