Der Grüne Punkt - 18. March 2020

Thoughts on Global Recycling Day: when will we have a truly closed plastics cycle?

Appeal from Der Grüne Punkt on Global Recycling Day / The path to the circular economy is still a long one, but there is no alternative

Shredded and cleaned plastic waste (picture) is used to produce new plastics

Cologne, 18 March 2020. “Everyone concurs that there is no alternative to a circular economy – but not everyone is equally committed to it,” comments Michael Wiener, CEO of Der Grüne Punkt, on the third Global Recycling Day. “Everyone realizes that we cannot go on consuming resources and then throwing them away.” But the readiness to invest when necessary in sustainable management of resources (and plastic in particular) is still far from widespread. The costs for this kind of policy-making, visibly exemplified by littering of the seas with plastic waste, are being added to the coming generation’s burden.

“It’s like the introduction of renewable energies,” says Michael Wiener. “That was a major accomplishment, a real tour de force, and it hasn’t been completed yet. Many people claimed at first that we would never be able to attain the present-day state of the art.” But meanwhile renewable energies account for a relevant proportion of Germany’s energy supply. When it comes to plastics and the circular economy, this effort is still to come. “With plastics recycling, we’re still just starting out.” For instance, the demand for plastic recyclates in Europe is a mere six percent of total plastics consumption. “Recycled plastic continues to play practically no role in the manufacture of plastic products,” criticizes Michael Wiener.

In order to change this, Der Grüne Punkt is recommending:

  • Plastic products have to be amenable to recycling. Packaging made of plastic, for example, should be designed so that after use it can be easily sorted by machines, and assigned to the correct plastic type. In addition, it should be manufactured in such a way as to enable a high-quality product to be created from it again. Large manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, or also Nestlé, have set themselves some ambitious targets here, and are making huge efforts to reach them. In order to implement this for the market as a whole, a cross-sectoral subsidy mechanism is required for kick-starting development. “Several years ago, we had already proposed a possible implementation model in the shape of a recycling fund, into which everyone would pay, and which would reward recovery-related innovations. So far, this has remained the only proposal – nonetheless, implementation is not in sight,” says Michael Wiener.
  • Plastic products should include at least a proportion of recyclates. “Companies like Werner & Mertz (Frosch), Compo, Dr. Schnell and others have shown that high-quality packaging for consumer goods can also be manufactured from recyclates,” emphasizes Michael Wiener. “Others, like the mid-tier plastics producer Gies Kunststoffe, have shown true courage in changing over entire product lines to recyclate, and are successful on the market.” As with renewable energies, there is accordingly no obstacle to enacting annually rising quotas for using recycled plastic.
  • Seize opportunities for the German and European industrial sectors: “We still have a technological lead, but others are catching up, particularly China. We should be investing more in researching this up-to-the-future field,” urges Michael Wiener. This, he adds, can be done through a national recycling institute or intensive European cooperation.

Global Recycling Day

Global Recycling Day was introduced as an initiative by the Bureau of International Recycling, and has been celebrated since 2018. The day is intended to promote recycling and establish it as an important source of raw materials, in order to economize on natural resources.

“Recycling and the circular economy are THE raw material sources of the future,” predicts Michael Wiener confidently. “But like every source of raw materials, they have to be rendered accessible. This first requires effort and investment – and then it will pay off for those who manage it prudently.”

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 service providers for extended producer responsibility, leading suppliers of secondary raw materials for plastics, and premium producers of plastic recyclates, and as such positioned as the premier solution providers for the needs of the circular economy. Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland GmbH (DSD) has introduced the dual system 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 brand name for the international market. The companies are grouped together in DSD – Duales System Holding GmbH & Co. KG.

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