Germany continues to perform well in recycling. Nearly 70 percent of the packaging waste generated is recycled, and most of the rest was used to recover energy. Ms Krautzberger said: "Despite the high recycling rate we must strengthen efforts to recycle and make use of recyclates in order to conserve resources." Recycling rates vary between types of packaging. Whereas they are relatively high for glass (84.4%), paper/cardboard (87.6%), and steel (92.2%), there is a lot of potential to be tapped in plastics (49.7%) and wood (25.8%). The recycling rate for aluminium of 87.2 percent may seem high, but this includes recycling amounts which contain only between 30 and 40 percent pure aluminium.
Plastic packaging is often difficult to sort and recycle due to the variety of materials used and the fact that packaging is seldom designed with its recyclability in mind. Packaging also contains too many different components or composite plastics. The rate of recycling of plastic packaging remained unchanged in 2017 compared to the previous year as did the rate of energy recovery.
There are many different reasons for the continued high level of packaging consumption, one major reason being economic growth: more products equals more packaging. Consumption habits are another reason, for example the demand for resealable packaging or dosage dispensers, some of which are much too elaborate. This effectively increases the consumption of materials and makes recycling more difficult. In addition, there are trends to consider such as packaging of smaller portions, e-commerce, and food to go, all of which mean more packaging waste. Maria Krautzberger said: "It is usually not enough to reduce environmental pollution from packaging by simply using other materials. The better option is to use reusable packaging, use less and less elaborate packaging and packaging material, and to keep recyclability in mind."
The new Packaging Act has been in effect since 1 January 2019. The aim of the legislation is to improve the recyclability of packaging and promote reusable systems. It also establishes higher recycling rates. As of 2019, plastic packaging must be at least 58.5 percent mechanically recyclable to also enable production of new plastic products. That target further increases to 63 percent from 2022. The Packaging Act also obliges the dual systems to reflect the recyclability of packaging and use of recyclates in their licensing fees. The dual systems must now be held to meeting compliance with their legal obligations. The Central Packaging Registry LUCID began operating in 2019. It lists all the businesses which place packaging on the market and are in fact meeting their financial product responsibility in the dual systems and thereby committed to the recycling of packaging. It is now easier to prosecute in case of breach, which is the responsibility of the federal states (Länder) and monitored by the German Environment Agency.
The updated report on the accrual and recycling of packaging waste includes special chapters dedicated to explaining the reasons for the rise in packaging quantities and developments in filling goods and also discusses the effects of the new EU guidelines on meeting reporting duties.
The following types of packaging account for total consumption: sales, secondary, transport, reusable, and packaging with harmful fillers and one-way components in reusable packaging. The recycling rates for total accrual are based on all the packaging waste accrued in Germany which is recycled domestically or in another state. These rates are distinct from the rates stipulated in the Packaging Act, which relate only to packaging subject to participation in the dual systems. This is commercial packaging of goods which typically accrues as waste with private final consumers after use. The recycling quotas in the Packaging Act are not determined based on accrual of packaging waste, but rather on amounts participating in the dual systems and the amount of lightweight packaging collected.
The guidelines of the European Packaging Directive applicable for the 2017 reporting year are determined based on the amounts of waste delivered to recycling installations, most fractions of which are sorted according to material at a sorting installation. However, plastic packaging in particular is often contaminated and the upstream processes of recycling incur further waste fractions that are not recycled. The actual proportion of recycled packaging is therefore lower. Calculation methods will be adjusted in order to collect data pursuant to the changed requirements of the EU Packaging Directive. By 2020 at the latest, determination of the recycling quota will focus on the amounts fed into the final recycling process.
This motto of this year's European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) is "Change our ways, reduce your waste - Take action together". The campaign runs from 18 to 24 November in Germany and features several hundred events on the topic of waste reduction (www.wochederabfallvermeidung.de). EWWR is organized by the Association of Local Utilities (VKU), sponsored by the Federal Environment Ministry and supervised by UBA.