German Environment Agency (UBA) chief Dirk Messner on Tuesday called for consumers to enjoy their coffee in reusable cups and end the “flood” of packaging littering public spaces.
“Recyclable cups, for example for coffee, must become the norm, and whoever takes away meals should do so in recyclable containers,” he said. “It is best to use immediately recycled raw materials for production.”
The latest UBA data — from 2018 — attributed 228 kilograms (503 lbs) of packaging to each of Germany’s 83 million residents, counting waste along the complete manufacturing-and-sales chain.
Overall, the agency estimated that Germany’s packaging consumption had increased by 17.9% since 2010.
Private individuals generated 47% of Germany’s packaging waste. That amounted to 108 kilograms per capita, or 8.9 million tons nationwide.
That was 20.6% more than packaging consumed privately in 2010, said the UBA, blaming trends toward smaller doses and re-sealable foodstuff wrappings.
These functioned with elaborate seals, however, leading to higher material usage.
The UBA also cautioned that its sampling predated the coronavirus crisis, but surmised that future data on 2020 would reflect more packaged takeaways from eateries.
On the “good news” flipside, the agency said more than two-thirds (69%) of Germany’s packaging waste in 2018 ended up being recycled — thanks to German propensity to deposit waste in color-coded “wheelie” bins and trash boxes.
The rest was used “energetically” meaning it was incinerated at waste fuel plants to capture residual power.
“Even though Germany continues to be one of the pioneers in the recycling of packaging, there is still room for improvement,” urged the UBA.
Least recyclable at only 25% were wooden products. Almost half of plastics (47%), including wrappings around foodstuffs, were recycled.
Top recycling marks went to steel — from tin cans, for example — at 92%; aluminum at 90%, paper and cardboard at 88% and glass on 83%.
In line with an EU push for “circular economies” and its European Packaging Directive, Germany in 2019 adopted a packaging law requiring higher recycling quotas.
Those legislated quotas — differing somewhat in calculation from the UBA’s 2018 data — now require industry to recycle 58.5% of plastic packaging, rising to 63% in 2022.
The UBA said its calculation methods, when it filed 2020 data in the future, would be adjusted to comply the EU Packaging Directive to account for contamination in plastics that make portions unfit for recycling.
Under proposals put forward at the beginning of 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May says she is hoping to eradicate avoidable plastic by 2042. Her outline plan to create a “cleaner, greener Britain” includes a suggestion to encourage supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles.
Attitudes towards plastic bags are changing across Europe. Governments in many countries including Luxembourg and Denmark have slapped a tax on single use carriers, while individual supermarkets in Germany are increasingly removing them from their shelves in favor of more durable reusable alternatives.
Kenya went a step further in August 2017, when it made it illegal to produce, sell or use plastic bags in the country. At the time it came into force, the nation was estimated to be using some 24 million bags a month. Anyone violating the restrictions faces up to four years in prison or a fine of €31,616 ($38,000).
Zimbabwe has also made changes to its packaging policies. It has outlawed styrofoam containers for fast food in order to create space for more environmentally-friendly alternatives such as paper or corn-based containers. Ahead of implementation, snack bar owners were encouraged to offer their customers a place to sit in and eat.
The Scottish government has announced plans to outlaw both the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton ear buds, which all too often are flushed down the toilet and end up in the sea. Alternatives made entirely from biodegradable materials would still be allowed.
ipj/rt (dpa, AFP)