No.: 4/2018Newsletter "UBA aktuell"

Dear Reader,

The surge in the number of “coffee to go” cups on our streets and the shrink-wrapped fruit and vegetables in our supermarkets makes it clear: in recent years, there has been an increase in our use of packaging – packaging which guzzles energy and resources and harms the environment, especially if it isn’t recycled, or at the very least disposed of appropriately. In this edition of our newsletter you can read about how much packaging waste arose in Germany in 2016 and how things stand regarding its recycling.

Wishing you informative reading

The UBA press office

Increasing quantities of waste packaging

+ 74 per cent and icons of plastic bottles
Between the years 2000 and 2016, the consumption of plastic packaging increased by about 74 percent.
Source: Umweltbundesamt

In Germany in the year 2016, this was equivalent to 220.5 kilograms of waste packaging per person: in total, 18.16 million tonnes. This was 0.05 percent more than the year before. Sadly, Germany is one of the worst offenders in Europe: according to the latest figures, in 2015, the average rate of consumption in the EU was just 167.3 kilograms per person.

Trends such as smaller portion sizes due to smaller households, “coffee to go” in throwaway cups and the booming mail order business mean that the use of packaging continues to grow. Between the years 2000 and 2016, the consumption of plastic packaging increased by approximately 74 percent.

In 2016, 70 percent of waste packaging in Germany was recycled while the rest was incinerated for energy recovery. The recycling rates vary strongly according to the individual materials, however: those for steel (92.1 percent), paper/cardboard (88.7 percent), aluminium (87,9 percent) and glass (85.5 percent) are comparatively high. For plastics (49.7 percent) and wood (26 percent), however, the recycling rates are lower. Plastic packaging is particularly difficult to separate and recycle because of the exceptional variety of materials. In 2016, it was nonetheless possible for 0.9 percent more plastic packaging to be recycled than in the year before, with the recycled share surpassing that used for energy recovery for the first time. There is considerable potential in this area though, and Germany must perform better in the future: on 1 January 2019, the new Federal Packaging Act will take effect, and for packaging for which manufacturers are obliged to participate in dual systems and which is typically disposed of by private consumers, the Act specifies an initial recycling rate of 58.5 percent for plastics, which will increase to 63 percent from 2022 onwards.

For additional facts and data, please refer to the current edition of our annual study, “Aufkommen und Verwertung von Verpackungsabfällen in Deutschland im Jahr 2016” (The occurrence and recycling of packaging waste in Germany)

Consumer tips

Environment tips for the summer

Protecting the environment and health is always a good idea: our tips for solar protection, bathing, holiday trips, barbecues and saving water in your garden. read more (in German)

Offsetting emissions the clever way – what counts as balancing?

Each individual and every organisation have their own carbon footprint, and increasing numbers are aware of their footprint, which they balance by contributing to climate protection. What if the emissions still exceed all attempts to avoid and reduce them, though? With this companion, the UBA provides tips and information (in German) on how to offset emissions through climate protection projects on a voluntary basis. In this respect, there is a particular focus on quality standards. read more (in German)

PFC Planet: chemicals in the environment

Whether it is saucepans, packaging or raincoats: per- and polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are used in many products. Some PFCS are toxic and remain in the environment and accumulate in organisms. PFCs have even been discovered in breast milk. The PFC Planet offering from the UBA explains (in German) how PFCs find their way into the environment and food chains, what this means, and what can be done to prevent it. read more (in German)

Marine protection concerns us all!

Germany is committed to improving the condition of the waters in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. This isn't just a governmental task, however: every citizen – whether personally, in an association or in an organisation – can contribute to improving the condition of our seas and coastline. In this way they can help create a healthy living environment for the many plants and animals there once again. read more (in German)

UBA positions

Changing over to environmentally-friendly refrigerants

The fluorinated refrigerant R1234yf has been discovered in increasingly high concentrations in the atmosphere. It mainly originates from car air conditioning systems, but increasingly, from refrigeration and air conditioning equipment as well. Trifluoroacetic acid – a metabolite of R1234yf – is highly soluble in water, toxic to algae and tough to break down, and enters our water via precipitation. The UBA advises a changeover to alternatives. read more (in German)

Science and research

Nine of the ten hottest years on record have been in the 21st century

The worldwide trend towards ever more rapidly increasing average temperatures continues: in world terms, 2017 was the third hottest year since the weather records began in the 19th century. Moreover, nine of the ten hottest years recorded have been after the year 2000. In our annual chronicle (in German), you can read about the extremes of weather that were recorded in both 2017 and in previous years. read more (in German)

Germany to require fewer raw materials by 2030

Germany will be able to reduce its requirement for raw materials by 2030, even with increased economic output and far-reaching changes such as the energy transition. This is the finding of a UBA research project in which a macroeconomic study was completed for the first time on how raw materials can be put to more productive use over the long term – taking their technical potential and path dependencies into account. read more (in German)

Water bodies in Europe haven’t been in a good way for some time

According to the EU water Framework Directive, by 2015, all water bodies must attain a good ecological status, and those to which exceptions apply must to do so by 2027 at the latest. The latest reports from the EU member states show that this objective remains a long way from being attained, and considerable efforts are needed if this is to take place. read more (in German)

Microplastics in the environment: internal UBA research now under way

How do microplastics find their way into our water? How can plastics be broken and on a faster and more environmentally friendly basis? And how can especially small microplastic components (sub-microplastics) be analysed reliably? With its experimental research units, the German Environment Agency is participating in the “Microplastics in the environment” research topic of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. read more (in German)

Long distance journeys by bus rather than car: helping our air and our climate

The long distance bus travel offering has increased markedly ever since the markets were liberalised in 2013. According to research by the UBA, that many people are opting to travel by long distance bus instead of their car has had a positive impact on the balance of greenhouse gas and air pollutants. Travelling by train or bus is far more environmentally friendly than travelling by car or air; as far as possible, these travel options should therefore be complementary rather than competitive. read more (in German)

Plastic and metal are ideally collected together

Packaging and other recyclable products made from plastic or metal are ideally collected together in a single refuse bin or refuse sack. According to a study by the German Environment Agency (UBA), this approach benefits the environment the most and costs the least. The shared household collection is of particular benefit in terms of the waste recycling sites to which consumers are obliged to take their waste materials. read more (in German)

Treated waste water in rivers: a challenge for our drinking water?

Treated waste water, i.e. from municipalities, is frequently discharged into our streams and rivers. In a UBA study, the ratio of treated waste water in the surface water bodies throughout Germany was estimated, and the risk this poses to the production of drinking water, assessed. The study also proposes recommended courses of action if the safe values are exceeded. In general terms, however, no risk was found to public health. read more (in German)

Industry & environment

Yellow rubber ducks

Online survey: Chemicals in consumer goods

Certain chemical substances are harmful to man and the environment. As part of the “AskREACH” EU LIFE project, staff in companies which produce or sell consumer products are able to partake in an online survey on “Substances of Very High Concern” in manufactured products until 30 September 2018. The results will be incorporated in the development of a Europe wide database and app. read more

3D printer producing a little plastic tree

Environmental- and health impact of 3D printing

Dental bridges, car bodies, construction components for homes: with 3D printing, it is possible to make almost anything. The technology is conquering ever more branches of industry – and even ringing in a new era of manufacturing. The efficiency of raw materials, greenhouse gases, pollutants: a study by the UBA highlights the challenges and opportunities for the environment and health. read more

Lignite industry: very few redundancies necessary

By the year 2030, almost two thirds of those who work in the lignite industry in Germany will have entered retirement. It will therefore be possible for Germany to phase out its lignite-based power generation and achieve its energy sector climate protection goals for 2030 without having to make workers in the industry redundant. For this to succeed, it must be ensured that no new workers are employed and the phase-out occurs on the basis of a political consensus. read more (in German)

Environment at municipal level

How do we want to live? Educational materials for the city of the future

Worldwide, increasing numbers of people now live in urban areas. This development is creating new challenges. Three illustrated short stories (in German) for teaching purposes at the sixth form level demonstrate everyday life in the city of the future and highlight the vision of the UBA for cities that are worth living in and in which environmentally friendly mobility is part of everyday life. The educational material invites the students to discuss their own ideas. read more (in German)

The UBA at the second conference on cities as locations for the sustainable transport transition

In the large cities in Germany, space is in short supply. The same applies to public roads and public spaces, which are increasingly given over to and occupied by cars. In many places, a rethink is now under way. With the title “Öffentlicher Raum ist mehr wert” (“Public space is worth more”), the Agora Verkehrswende think tank has invited participants to the second conference on "Städte als Orte der Verkehrswende" (“Cities as locations for the sustainable transport transition”). The UBA is also taking part, and will present its vision of the city of the future. read more (in German)

Environment at international level

water tap

Discussion in Brussels: materials in contact with drinking water

With Karl-Heinz Florenz (member of the European Parliament, European People's Party), Ingrid Chorus, director of the department for drinking water at the UBA, opened a breakfast session on the topic of materials in contact with drinking water. On 7 June 2018, 50 experts from EU institutions, the EU member states and associations discussed the controversy surrounding the proposal by the Commission. read more

irrigation on a field

EU Commission proposes regulation for the reuse of water

The reuse of treated waste water can help to reduce water shortages. Reused water can contain pathogens and harmful substances, however. On 28 May 2018, the EU Commission proposed a regulation, on minimum requirements concerning the reuse of water. It aims to protect health and the environment. The UBA considers there to be a need for improvement. read more

green roof

Climate-ADAPT first-stop-shop for adaptation knowledge in Europe

Climate-ADAPT, an online knowledge platform provided by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission since 2012, has grown into the most important place for information when it comes to adaptation to climate change in Europe. A report of the EEA informs about the experiences and effectiveness of the platform and points to ways of further improving it. read more

Law & legislation

20th anniversary of the Aarhus Convention: public participation in protecting the environment

The Aarhus Convention provides members of the public with the right to participate in protecting the environment. In 2018, this international environmental convention is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The rights of citizens and how they can make use of them are detailed in a brochure which has been published by the German Environment Agency (UBA) and Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU). read more (in German)

Nanomaterials – amendment of the REACH Regulation

With the amendment and revision of the REACH Regulation for nanomaterials, clearer and more specific regulations now apply to such materials in the European market. read more (in German)

Recycling capability of packaging: consultation launched

Manufacturers of certain forms of packaging are legally obliged in Germany to participate in dual systems to ensure that such packaging is collected, separated and recycled. From 2019, the requisite fees are to be oriented to how easily the individual type of packaging can be recycled. Those affected can submit their opinion on a draft orientation aid regarding the determination of recycling capability by 17 August 2018. read more (in German)

UBA news

Get there faster with the data search option

The UBA website includes over 1,300 items of data in the form of tables, diagrams, info graphics, indicators and maps. To enable you to find what you are looking for more quickly, you can now use our new central data search option (in German only). This allows you to filter data according to topic and type, to download it directly and to find related background articles. read more (in German)

Project funding for associations: apply for 2019 now

Environmental and nature conservation associations can apply for project funding for the year 2019 until 31 August. read more (in German)

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Umweltbundesamt (German Environment Agency)
Präsidialbereich / Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, Internet; Pressesprecher
Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau, Germany
Phone: +49(0) 340 2103-2416
Fax: +49(0) 340 2103-2285

Corinne Meunier

Six times a year our Newsletter „UBA aktuell“ provides information about the latest activities and work of the German Environment Agency (UBA).

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