Der Grüne Punkt - 05. January 2018

“Chinese import ban is an opportunity for the closed-cycle economy”

Investments to ensure capacity upsizing and a productivity boost / Acceptance for recycled plastic is still too low

Modern sorting technology
Modern sorting technology

Cologne, 5 January 2018. “China’s import ban for paper and plastic waste is an opportunity for the closed-cycle economy in Germany and Europe,” is the firm conviction of Michael Wiener, CEO of Der Grüne Punkt. According to the Euwid trade information service, exports of plastic from Germany to China have fallen by two-thirds since import controls were imposed. The principal categories involved here were polyethylene (films) and PET.

The Der Grüne Punkt Group is not directly affected by this, since in the past as well more than 90 percent of the plastic waste collected and sorted from the Yellow Sacks and the Yellow Bins were recovered in Germany and to a much lesser degree in the single European market. Moreover, Der Grüne Punkt possesses its own recycling capacities in the two plants of Systec Plastics in Hörstel (North Rhine-Westphalia) and Eisfeld (Thuringia), in which the group has been investing since 2011, and which it is continually upgrading and expanding.

However, different recovery options now have to be found for plastic waste from other sources that hitherto was exported to China from Germany and other countries, which means that raw materials remain in the country. In the case of suboptimal qualities, in particular, the supply will increase. Then there are the upsized recovery requirements entailed by the German Packaging Act: the plastics recycling target is being raised from its current 36 to initially 58.5 percent (2019) and then to 63 percent (2022). “The quantity of recycled plastic packaging waste could double in a few years,” believes Michael Wiener. “This will necessitate capital investment not only in sorting and recovery technology, but also in developing sales markets for recycled plastics.”

Operators of sorting plants have already begun to build several new facilities featuring the latest state of the art. Investment is also being channeled into recovery equipment – and into new products: in 2017, for example, in conjunction with the “Recyclate Initiative”, Der Grüne Punkt won a German Packaging Prize for cleaning agent bottles made 100 percent from recycled plastic, plus a German Sustainability Prize for its work on progressing resource-efficiency based on recycling. But further efforts are required here to enable quality, quantity and reliability of supply to be assured for the new top-quality recyclates. The investments will ensure more capacity and higher levels of productivity. This will necessitate a readiness on the part of the industrial sector to actually use the recyclates involved.

“However, acceptance in the industrial sector for using recycled plastic leaves plenty of room for improvement. Prompt joint efforts from the business community and the politicians are needed in order to use more recyclate,” urges Michael Wiener. Whereas packaging materials like paper, metal and glass have been recycled for many decades now, for repeated re-use in producing packages, this has yet to materialize with plastics. The vast majority of plastic packages are made from new plastic, and of all the post-consumer plastic waste produced in Germany (2015: approx. five million tons), according to a study conducted by the Consultic Institute, only about 37 percent is recycled.

“The politicians could accomplish a lot here merely by modifying the guidelines for public-sector procurement,” believes Michael Wiener. Moreover, regranulates reduce quantities of greenhouse gases emitted compared to new plastic. “If the greenhouse-gas emissions – e.g. by expanded trading with emission certificates – were to be included in the calculations for producing plastics, regranulates would acquire a significant cost advantage,” explains Michael Wiener.

Your contact person:
Norbert Völl, Tel.: +49 (0) 22 03 / 937-507

About the Der Grüne Punkt Group:
The companies of Der Grüne Punkt are as service providers for extended producer responsibility, as a leading supplier of secondary raw materials for plastics, and as a premium producer of plastic recyclates, the premier solution provider for the needs of the closed-cycle economy. Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland GmbH (DSD) is the market leader of the dual systems in Germany, and stands for intelligent take-back systems, plus the development and marketing of innovative recyclates and services. Systec Plastics, at its facilities in Eisfeld and Hörstel, produces premium-quality recyclates under the Systalen brandname for the international market. The companies are grouped together in DSD – Duales System Holding GmbH & Co. KG.