The recycling rates for packaging waste from private end consumers are developing well: 50.5 percent of the waste collected in yellow bins, including admixture, was recycled last year. The Packaging Act requires at least 50 percent. All quota targets for individual packaging materials were also met and exceeded on average by the dual systems in 2020. For example, 93 percent of the ferrous metal packaging participating in the systems went into recycling. 60.6 percent of plastic packaging was recycled. "A very large proportion of our packaging is recycled. I strongly disagree with the myth that everything that ends up in the yellow bin or the yellow bag is incinerated anyway," said Ms Busse. Nevertheless, action is urgent because the legal requirements will increase again next year when even more packaging waste will have to be recycled.
In order to foster the avoidance and recycling of packaging materials, UBA recommends that companies systematically review and optimise their packaging systems. Packaging should be designed to be highly recyclable and contain recycled materials wherever possible. UBA considers it urgent that existing initiatives to offer unpackaged goods and reusable products be expanded - beyond beverage packaging and in other areas, such as e-commerce and to-go consumption. The more widespread and common evident waste-avoiding reusable systems are, the easier it will be for people to do without disposable packaging. "We need nothing short of a complete turnaround in order to reduce the amount of packaging waste," said Ms Busse.
UBA also sees a need for action in legislation. Important decisions must be made at European and national level. Packaging that cannot be recycled to a high standard should be taken off the market wherever there are other packaging options for the goods it contains or packaging is unnecessary. The European Union should also introduce minimum contents of recycled plastics from waste after use for packaging throughout the EU and crack down on oversized packaging.
UBA also sees a need for action in legislation. Important decisions must be made at European and national level. Packaging that cannot be recycled properly should disappear from the market wherever there are other packaging options for the goods it contains or packaging is unnecessary. The European Union should also introduce minimum contents of recycled plastics from waste after use for packaging throughout the EU and tackle oversized packaging.
All recycling quotas specified in the Packaging Act were achieved by the dual systems in 2020. In terms of the quantities involved in the systems, the packaging was sent for recycling as follows:
- Paper/cardboard: 90.6% (target: 85%)
- Glass: 82.4% (target: 80%)
- Aluminium: 107% (target: 80%)
- Ferrous metals: 93% (target: 80%)
- Cardboard beverage packaging: 76% (target: 75%)
- Other composite packaging: 62.6% (target: 55%)
The recycling rate for plastic packaging was 104% (including recovery for energy) and 60.6% materials recovery (target: 58.5%).
The Central Agency Packaging Register has not yet completed its review of individual partial quantities. Quotas of over 100 percent can occur due to the calculation method as there are cases in which there is more packaging on the market than has been licensed with the dual systems. This is due to irresponsible action by some manufacturers who have not licensed all of their packaging with the systems - this packaging then ends up in the collection system. Quotas above 100 percent can also occur if non-packaging of the same material is disposed of incorrectly in the lightweight packaging collection – i.e. if the yellow plastic toy, which is made of plastic but is not packaging, ends up in the yellow bag.
Generation of packaging and share of reusables in drinks packaging
A total of 18.91 million tonnes of packaging waste was generated by private and commercial end consumers in Germany in 2019. Since 2010, the volume of packaging has increased by 18.1 percent. This amounted to 227.55 kg per capita in 2019. The reusable share for beverage packaging, at 41.8 percent at last count in 2019, is also significantly below the statutory target of 70 percent. It appears that this target cannot be achieved without the introduction of additional measures. The German Environment Agency is currently researching concrete proposals for measures in this regard.