Munich (dpa) – Recycling in Germany is stagnating regardless of ambitious political wishes.
According to the new “German Circular Economy Situation Report”, the use of “secondary raw materials” in the German economy has not progressed since the late 1980s and remains at a 12-13 percent share. The authors of the study published in Munich on Tuesday complain about this.
“We see in many places that we are not really developing anymore, that nothing fundamental is really happening,” said Jochen Hoffmeister, a partner at the Prognos Institute, who was significantly involved in the report.
It’s by no means just the waste that ends up in trash cans or glass and paper containers. More than half of the annual waste in Germany comes from construction sites, in the form of rubble and demolition rubble. In 2017, more recent figures were not yet available for the report, 409 million tons of garbage were disposed of, of which 221 million tons were construction waste. However, the construction industry rarely uses recycled waste as building materials. “There is simply a lack of demand for recycled building materials,” said Eric Rehbock, General Manager of the Federal Association for Secondary Raw Materials (bvse).
In 2015, the EU targeted the “Circular Economy” in Europe. Accordingly, the use of raw materials should be as minimal as possible and instead as much waste as possible should be recycled. Outside of Germany, however, according to the progress report, the balance is often even worse. “We have already achieved a lot in Germany compared to other European countries,” Hoffmeister said.
Household waste accounted for a comparatively small but constantly growing share in Germany in 2017 with 38 million tonnes. Most of the rest of the 409 million tons is produced in industry or as a surcharge from natural resource extraction.
The proportion of plastic waste, which fell into disrepute mainly due to pollution of seas, rivers and groundwater, was also quite low in 2019 at 6.3 million tons. Almost a third of this was recycled and a good 600,000 tons were exported. “A very important issue for the recycling of plastics in the future is the improvement of the quality of the inputs for the recycling systems,” said Hoffmeister. This refers to the fact that many different types of plastic are mixed with plastic waste, but only a few types can be reprocessed separately.
The recycling industry is naturally committed to increasing the recycling ratio, but according to the study authors, this has so far failed, not just in the construction industry due to low demand. That is why the authors call for a political solution: the introduction of a prescribed minimum proportion of recycled materials in the industry.
The status report was commissioned by a total of 15 associations and companies, most of them from the recycling industry. The circular economy should have been a big topic at the Munich Ifat environmental technology fair, which had to be canceled due to the corona pandemic.