No.: 5/2020Newsletter "UBA aktuell"

Dear Reader,

On October 3, we were able to look back on 30 years of German unity. In this edition of the newsletter you will find out what has been happening in environmental protection during this period. There are also interesting new figures on among other things the social-ecological justice of our current transport system, greenhouse gas emissions from video streaming, and the status of the energy system transformation in Germany. In this newsletter you will find both scientific findings as well as practical recommendations regarding the corona virus.

Wishing you an interesting read,  

The Press Office of the German Environment Agency

30 years of unified Germany: a plus for the environment too

Der Brocken im Nebel
The Brocken peak in the Harz, once used for espionage purposes, now lies in the Harz National Park.
Source: ohenze /

October 3 marked the 30th anniversary of German reunification. The German Environment Agency concludes that a lot of positive things have happened in environmental protection since then. German Environment Agency President Dirk Messner: „We can be justly proud of what the new federal states have achieved in environmental protection since 1990. Life has returned to many rivers that used to be ecologically dead. The air, which was acrid in some regions 30 years ago, is now almost everywhere below current pollution limits again“

Especially in the industrial area around Leipzig/Halle/Weißenfels/Bitterfeld, extremely high concentrations of sulphur dioxide were measured in the 1980s. With values of over 400 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m³) on an annual average, pollution here was about four times higher than in the West German Ruhr area. The highest values today are around 10 µg/m³ and around the year 2000 the concentrations in eastern and western German industrial areas ceased to differ.

Before 1990, East German rivers were among the most heavily polluted watercourses in Europe - foam mountains at dams and rivers coloured by chemicals were the rule rather than the exception. Today, the water quality of many rivers has visibly and measurably improved. For example, pollution with heavy metals such as mercury and persistent organic chemicals has fallen by more than 95 percent in many major eastern German rivers since the early 1990s.

And yet there is much to be done – in the East and the West. German Environment Agency President Dirk Messner: „After the transition to a market economy and democracy during reunification, we are now faced once again with demanding processes of change. We must make our economy fit for the future in order to mitigate climate and environmental change to the greatest extent possible and keep it manageable. The key words are energy transition, mobility transition, more sustainable cities, sustainable agriculture and circular economy.“

Consumer tips

Environmentally friendly living: what matters

Food, housing, mobility, financial investments, clothing, electronics and computers – what are the big factors that can help us to live in a climate-friendly and resource-saving manner? read more (in German)

Interactive environmental atlas launched on the subject of reactive nitrogen

Nitrogen, in its respective compounds, has a variety of effects on humans and the environment: Nitrous oxide can damage the climate, nitrogen dioxide is harmful to health, and too much nitrate endangers groundwater. Too much nitrogen is being released into the environment due to human activities. How can we reduce excess nitrogen? The German Environment Agency’s multimedia Environmental Atlas (in German) deals with these topics. read more (in German)

Face masks do not result in increased inhalation of CO2

Face masks, such as everyday or surgical masks, make an important contribution to reducing the spread of COVID-19. The fear that carbon dioxide (CO2) would accumulate under the mask and lead to inhalation of harmful concentrations is unfounded. read more (in German)

UBA positions

Ein Fahrradfahrer in einem Stau mit Autos

Current transport policy puts people with low income at a disadvantage

Today's transportation system in Germany shows numerous social injustices, says a position paper by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Low-income households in particular are disadvantaged, for example because they more frequently live on roads with higher traffic volumes and thus higher noise and air pollution levels - even though they often do not drive. read more

Science and Research

Server im Rechenzentrum.

Video streaming: data transmission technology crucial for climate footprint

HD-quality video streaming produces different levels of greenhouse gas emissions depending on the transmission technology. The CO2 emissions generated by data processing in a data centre are relatively low, at 1.5 grams of CO2 per hour. However, the technology used to transmit data from the data centre to the user determines the climate compatibility of cloud services like video streaming. read more

red car with silver exhaust in close-up

Loud motorcycles and cars becoming annoying

The only recently revised international noise approval regulations for motor vehicles are not suitable for preventing extreme noise emissions in road traffic. This is according to a recent study for the German Environment Agency (UBA). Various brand-new motorcycles and sports cars that complied with the approval regulations were 20 dB or more louder during measurements outside the type test area o read more

ein Rattenschatten an der Wand

Rodent control measures are contaminating fish

Rat poison that is used in municipal sewer systems is a source of emissions to surface water where it bioaccumulates in fish liver. These are the findings of a new research project done on behalf of the German Environment Agency (UBA). The active substances used in baits are not degraded completely in wastewater treatment plants and are thus channelled to rivers. read more

German Environment Agency conducts exhaust gas tests with remote sensing

As part of a project run by the German Environment Agency, the second campaign started in Frankfurt (Germany) in August to measure CO2 and pollutant emissions from passing motor vehicles using remote sensing. The method allows this to be done without direct contact with the vehicle, as the composition of the exhaust gases is determined from a few metres away using an IR/UV light source, e.g. a laser. read more (in German)

The switch to climate-friendly refrigerants must pick up speed

According to an EU regulation, climate-damaging fluorinated greenhouse gases used in private air conditioning units or in the retail trade, among other things, must be largely replaced by alternatives by 2030. A study commissioned by the German Environment Agency shows that the refrigeration and air conditioning industry in Germany does not sufficiently implement the requirements. Research and technical developments are urgently needed. read more (in German)

What does the corona crisis mean for environmental policy?

The corona crisis calls much of our established practice into question. The economy is under pressure and people are changing their habits, for example in regard to nutrition and mobility. What does this mean for the future of environmental policy? A specially established "Corona Task Force" of the German Environment Agency has drawn up initial discussion papers on this subject. read more (in German)

Climate change is affecting the lives of penguins in Antarctica

Results from a long-term study commissioned by the German Environment Agency illustrate the influence of climate change on penguins and other seabirds in Antarctica: Rising temperatures and higher rainfall mean that species that are highly dependent on ice are retreating further south, with species from warmer areas taking their place. read more (in German)

Economy and Environment

Photovoltaikanlage auf dem Dach des Umweltbundesamtes in Dessau-Roßlau

Renewable energy in Germany continues growth trend

Renewable energies strengthened their position in the German electricity mix significantly in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year. In total, around 138 billion kilowatt hours of renewable electricity were generated in the first six months of 2020, around eight percent more than in the first half of 2019 (+ approximately 10 billion kWh). read more

Die Jury läuft auf die Kameralinse zu.

Who will be the winners of the Federal Ecodesign Award 2020?

147 submissions to the contest's four categories "Product", "Service", "Concept", and "Young Talent" were on display and evaluated yesterday at feldfünf, in the open space of the Metropolenhaus in Berlin. 28 projects were nominated by the environmental and design experts of the jury for this year's design award. read more

Food retail standards put pressure on the environment

Flawless apples, straight carrots, minimum sizes and fresh green leaves on kohlrabi: many food retail standards go beyond legal requirements. This results in the use of unnecessary fertilisers and pesticides and the disposal of products that do not meet the requirements. The German Environment Agency commissioned a study of the impact of the standards on the environment. read more (in German)

Systematic climate protection in businesses

In light of the advancing climate crisis, many companies wish to become climate-neutral in the foreseeable future. Systematic climate management is of central importance if measures and initiatives are to be credible and make an effective contribution to climate protection. A recent report by the German Environment Agency makes concrete proposals regarding this issue. read more (in German)

Pharmacies can contribute to reducing the number of pharmaceuticals in the environment

Pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment more and more often. However, the subject of "pharmaceuticals in the environment" is rarely addressed in pharmacy study programmes and further training courses. A report by the German Environment Agency offers suggestions on how the topic can be incorporated into education both didactically and in terms of content. In addition, concepts for a multimedia learning platform and for customer information in pharmacies have been developed. read more (in German)

The proportion of reusable packaging for beverages continues to fall

In 2018, the percentage of beverages filled in reusable packaging was only 41.2 percent. This is one percentage point less than in 2017. Even canned beer is being consumed more again. The downward trend of recent years therefore continues. This is the conclusion drawn by a current assessment commissioned by the German Environment Agency. read more (in German)

Environment at municipal level

a virus in a close-up foto

Proper airing reduces risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection

Aerosols are a possible transmission path of the novel coronavirus. Aerosols spread quickly throughout the entire room, especially in closed indoor spaces. Regular ventilation by shock and cross ventilation or via ventilation systems in the rooms can significantly reduce the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2. read more

Make way for teaching materials on land consumption for schools

How much land do I need, why is more and more land being built on and what are the consequences of land consumption for the environment? These are just some of the questions covered in this educational brochure (in German). Students can use the brochure to identify the problems of land use and landscape fragmentation, and teachers are given suggestions for teaching materials. read more (in German)

GSAapp provides information for emergency services in case of chemical accidents

The Hazardous Substances Rapid Information System (Gefahrstoffschnellauskunft – GSA) supports rescue services in the event of accidents involving chemicals with reliable information on hazardous substances, emergency measures and first aid instructions. In the GSAapp for smartphones, this information is also available offline at any time. The app has been enhanced with new functions and is available for free download for iPhone and Android. read more (in German)

Climate neutral for sustainable consumption in municipalities and rural districts

The promotion of sustainable consumption is often not included in municipal climate protection concepts, while initiatives for sustainable consumption rarely aim at climate neutrality. A new German Environment Agency brochure therefore uses municipal best-practice examples to show how the numerous synergies between the two environmental policy fields can be leveraged. read more (in German)

Traffic experiment "Car-free Friedrichstraße" started in Berlin

As part of the model project "Car-free Friedrichstraße" in Berlin-Mitte, Friedrichstraße has been closed to cars between "Französische Straße" and "Leipziger Straße" since the end of August. The street space will initially be available until the end of January 2021 as a promenade with bicycle lane. The German Environment Agency welcomes the traffic experiment, which is entirely in keeping with the German Environment Agency's vision of "Tomorrow’s Cities". read more (in German)

Municipalities can increase resource efficiency

Municipalities have a high potential for resource-efficient action: municipal actors in economic development, specialist offices and infrastructure service providers for energy, water and waste can contribute to increasing resource efficiency. A service centre could be established to support the municipalities in this respect. This is shown in the "KommRess" project commissioned by the German Environment Agency. read more (in German)

Environment International

Ein Kohletagebau

European Resources Forum in virtual conference format

For the 5th time, the German Environment Agency will organise the European Resources Forum (ERF) on 3 November 2020. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the English-language conference will take place virtually as an online event for the first time. More than 500 participants from over 40 countries are expected to attend. read more

Home page of the SDG 12 database

Database presents German initiatives on UN sustainability goal 12

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 goals for worldwide socially, ecologically and economically sustainable development (Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs). The SDG 12 database shows which developments have taken place in Germany since then with regard to Goal 12 "Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns". It currently comprises more than 120 activities. read more

a man is taking a water sampling

Pesticides in Europe's waters – data assessment

Pesticides can cause damage to the environment. A project coordinated by the German Environment Agency for the European Environment Agency provides the first overview of pesticides in rivers. lakes and groundwater reported by EU Member States. The report confirms that additional measures are necessary to ensure compliance with environmental quality standards in waters. read more

Digital and sustainable services in the Baltic Sea Region

Digitalisation and ecological design are creating new opportunities for environmental and resource protection: for example, digital service offers already help to avoid food waste or extend the service life of electrical appliances. The EU Interreg project EcoDesign Circle 4.0 coordinated by the German Environment Agency promotes these services in six countries bordering the Baltic Sea. read more (in German)

Law and Legislation

Sustainable chemistry contributes to a positive development in society, environment and economy.

REACH and sustainable chemistry

The European chemicals regulation REACH is intended to contribute to a more sustainable chemistry. A current UBA report provides a systematic analysis on the relations between main elements of REACH (e.g. Registration or Information in the supply chain) and main elements of sustainable chemistry (e.g. substitution of hazardous substances or corporate social responsibility of companies). read more

Routes to more onshore wind energy areas

A brief expert report commissioned by the German Environment Agency outlines how the provision of land for wind turbines can be made more climate-friendly and legally secure. For example, the federal government could use quantity targets to direct the provision of land towards the climate-friendly expansion of wind energy. The provision of land at local level could also be simplified and strengthened. read more (in German)

Recyclability of packaging: new minimum standard

Manufacturers of certain types of packaging are required to participate in a “dual system” of waste collection, to ensure that waste packaging is collected, sorted and recycled. Since 2019, the fees have been calculated based on how easily the packaging can be recycled. The minimum standard on how to determine recyclability, further developed in 2020, has now been published. read more (in German)

New EU regulation: reuse of water in agriculture

On 26.06.2020, the regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on minimum requirements for water reuse – the EU Water Reuse Regulation – came into force. It will apply from 26.06.2023 in the Member States of the European Union (EU) and therefore also in Germany. read more (in German)

Monitoring list for chemicals in waters updated

The EU Commission has adjusted the monitoring list for the EU Water Framework Directive for the second time since 2015. This list includes chemicals that are difficult to control or are to be monitored more closely. EU Member States must measure them in waters at representative sampling points. read more (in German)

Proposals for environmentally friendly and resources conserving mining

Mining is currently a hot topic in Germany: For one, the phase-out of lignite mining, which has already been initiated, is increasingly creating new challenges, especially in terms of coping with the consequences. Secondly, international consortia are exploring promising deposits. The German Environment Agency therefore recommends further development of mining law – from an environmental protection perspective. read more (in German)

UBA News

Dr Torsten Bischoff, Head of Central Office Division, has died

It is with great sadness and sorrow that we share the news of the sudden and unexpected death of our Head of Central Office Division, Dr Torsten Bischoff, on 7 September 2020. Dr Bischoff headed the Central Office Division with great commitment and success from 1 April 2020. His death leaves a great human and professional void at the German Environment Agency. read more (in German)

UBA stands for family-friendly work

On 2 September 2020 the German Environment Agency signed the updated cooperation agreement of the Dessau-Roßlau employer initiative “Familienbewusstes Arbeiten” (“Family-Conscious Work”). Two new members have joined the agreement signed in 2014 by nine companies and institutions. The German Environment Agency is a founding member. read more (in German)

Organising sustainable events

The Federal Administration organises a large number of meetings, conferences and similar events. The "Guidelines for the sustainable organisation of events" published by the Federal Environment Ministry and the German Environment Agency provide recommendations and practical advice on how these events can be organised in an environmentally sound and socially responsible manner. read more (in German)

Recently published

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

2019 Monitoring Report

on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

Report by the Interministerial Working Group on Adaptation to Climate Change

Within the framework of the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS), the Federal Government is now presenting the second monitoring report in 2019. It informs the public and decision-makers in all areas of social life about the observed consequences of climate more

brochure / flyer
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Cover of the background paper "The Green New Consensus" as at September 2020 from the German Environment Agency

The Green New Consensus: Study Shows Broad Consensus on Green Recovery Programmes and Structural Reforms

The paper analyses 130 studies on green recovery programmes. It finds broad consensus on the need to use the Covid-19 recovery efforts to also address the climate and biodiversity crises. Consensus also exist on the benefits of green recovery programmes, the eligibility criteria to be applied and suitable areas of support. Further, research is increasingly calling for linking green recovery more

background paper
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Cover of the What Matters magazine about PFAS

What Matters 1-2020: PFAS. Came to stay.

Each issue of the German Environment Agency's "What Matters" magazine is devoted to relevant topics in the field of environmental protection. It is published every six months.  In its 1-2020 issue, UBA looks at chemicals with the abbreviation PFAS: per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances. These chemicals are used in many applications for their water, grease and soil-repellent function. more

brochure / flyer
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Cover_TEXTE_147-2020_Advancing REACH_Sustainable Chemistry

Advancing REACH - REACH and sustainable chemistry

Sustainable chemistry contributes to positive, long-term sustainable development. Chemicals regulations such as ⁠REACH⁠ can support several aspects of sustainable chemistry. The report gives a systematic analysis on the relations between main elements of REACH (e.g. Registration or Information in the supply chain) and main elements of sustainable chemistry (e.g. substitution of more

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Cover_CC_27-2020_Key mitigation optil 2030 ambition and action gap

Background Paper: Key mitigation options to close the global 2030 ambition and action gap

Staying within the limit of the Paris Agreement of 1.5 °C global warming requires closing the global 2030 ambition and action gap arising from insufficient current policies and contributions. G20 countries have a crucial role to play in realising increased climate policy ambition, given their strong economic and political influence as well as their high share in global greenhouse gas more

Climate Change
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Cover_TEXTE_150-2020_Do new generations of active pharmaceuticals for human use require an adaption of the environmental risk assessment

Do new generations of active pharmaceuticals for human use require an adaption of the environmental risk assessment?, Part I: Literature review

Since 2006, various new active pharmaceutical ingredients have been developed with highly specific mechanisms of action. That raise the question of whether current environmental risk assessment within the scope of the authorization is still sufficient to appropriately assess relevant effects on environmental organisms. In this literature review the scientific basis for a tailored risk more

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Cover_TEXTE_162-2020_Environmental Protection in Maritime Traffic – Scrubber Wash Water

Environmental Protection in Maritime Traffic – Scrubber Wash Water Survey

Discharge water samples from Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS, scrubbers) were taken on board of ships and analyzed in terms of heavy metals and PAKs. The distribution of wash water and potential concentration of pollutants were simulated with a dispersion model for the North- and Baltic Sea. Results showed increased pollutant concentrations, especially in the closed-loop EGCS waters, and more

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Cover_TEXTE_168-2020_Establishment of human biomonitoring at EU level within the framework of the EHBMI

Establishment of human biomonitoring at EU level within the framework of the EHBMI (European Human Biomonitoring Initiative, HBM4EU)

The report gives an overview on synergies between the two EU-projects BRIDGE HEALTH and HBM4EU with respect to the linkage of human biomonitoring studies and health studies. As this project aimed to use and further develop the knowledge and experience from BRIDGE HEALTH in HBM4EU, relevant results of BRIDGE HEALTH were summarised and recommendations for respective HBM4EU work packages were more

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The Ozone Situation in Germany

State of knowledge, research gaps and recommendations

The threat to human health and vegetation by ozone is still an important topic in politics, science and the public in Germany. A workshop organized by the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS Potsdam) addressed this issue. Experts discussed the current state of knowledge on processes relevant for ozone, the need for improvement more

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Cover_TEXTE_167-2020_Validation of the NSAID in vitro assay for biomonitoring of NSAID activities in surface waters

Validation of the NSAID in vitro assay for biomonitoring of NSAID activities in surface waters

The NSAID in vitro-Bioassay – originally developed for municipal waste water samples – can now be used to detect activity of cox-inhibitors in surface waters as well. By using 44 water samples from several European countries the application range and quality of this bioassay was increased and the limit of detection is further reduced to now 12 ng diclofenac/l. In this project other more

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As recounted


Germany currently produces about half as much residual waste as 35 years ago, compared to the old federal states. This is shown by a current analysis of municipal residual waste in Germany for the German Environment Agency. Many more recyclable materials such as glass, paper and plastic are now collected separately. Nevertheless, many recyclable materials still end up in the residual waste bin where they do not belong. Bio-waste accounts for the largest share of this, averaging 39 percent.



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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