What's it all about?
Germany likes to be called the recycling world champion. Germans separate their waste, but they also produce more packaging waste than any other nation in Europe. In 2017, it was 226.5kg of packaging waste per capita (Federal Environment Agency 2019).
What's the problem?
The recycling rate in Germany is officially around 45%. The reason for this high recycling rate lies in the fact that everything that arrives at the waste sorting plant is counted. Whether it is misthrown or exported to distant countries with poorer waste infrastructure is irrelevant in the calculation. In fact, however, only 15.6% of plastic waste is processed into recyclate. Only 7.8% is qualitatively equivalent to virgin plastic. Much of Germany's plastic waste is incinerated (Heinrich Böll Foundation 2019). The reason for this is that a lot of packaging consists of different materials that are difficult to separate later (Umweltbundesamt 2019).
What can I do?
Buy less plastic packaging and use unpackaged food or food packaged in glass or paper. If plastic packaging is unavoidable, choose those that are only made of one type of plastic. Sort your waste and separate the components of your packaging waste as much as possible. Encourage others to do the same.