What would be the result of a comparison between waste incineration and recycling, using plastics as an example? Quite simple: recycling is way ahead and reaps rewards both for the environment and the economy!
The mechanical recycling of plastic waste is the best ecological option. The recycling of plastics from the yellow bag and the yellow bin, as practised today by DSD, saves 1.26 tons of CO2 per ton of recycled plastics compared to incineration in an average German waste incineration plant.
Waste incineration plants in Germany also contribute to saving greenhouse gases because they process large volumes of biogenous waste, i.e. food leftovers, kitchen slop, wood and other material. In former days, such waste simply rotted on the waste depot – and the methane resulting i.a. is 20 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2. The waste incineration plants also generate power and heat, thus saving fossil fuels.
Plastic, however, only contains fossil carbon. Combined with the low efficiency of waste incineration plants, compared to power or cement plants this results in additional burden for the climate if plastics are processed in the waste incineration plant instead of being recycled.
Mechanical recycling, i.e. the processing of plastics to re-granulates, the base project for plastic production, is the best option. Since plastics are only maintained in the cycle via material recycling, this results in the largest contribution possible to the protection of resources. Material recycling is also beneficial in business terms today. Re-granulates from used plastic packaging are comparable to the quality of new goods made from crude oil, and cheaper. Incinerating plastics in a waste incineration plant is therefore a waste of time and money.
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