VCI position in a nutshell

Plastics in the Environment

02. July 2021 | Position

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Plastics are versatile and high-performance materials. However, they have no place as litter in the environment. Instead, their added value should be better utilised than this is the case so far.

Plastics are versatile and high-performance materials. However, they have no place as litter in the environment. Instead, their added value should be better utilised than this is the case so far.

Already in their applications, plastics make important contributions to environmental protection, for example, in rotor blades of wind power plants or as insulation materials. If they are efficiently "run in cycles" after use, also resources can be preserved and the climate protected. This requires functioning disposal and recovery systems and the active involvement of all stakeholders, especially consumers.

Further strengthen recycling

In Germany, still 53 percent of all plastic waste goes into energy recovery in a meaningful way. This generates energy for electricity and heat but also emits CO2. The industry is working on CO2 recycling, for example, in the chemical production of plastics.

The currently decisive contribution to a circularity of plastics is in recycling. Work is underway to expand recycling in various ways as opposed to incineration: On the one hand, with classic "mechanical" recycling where, in particular, innovative ideas for an even more recyclable design of products are needed. On the other hand, chemical recycling is being further developed, as it allows the recycling of soiled and mixed plastic waste and, in this respect, supplements the mechanical approach very well. The method is still at an early stage both in quantitative and technological terms. For this reason, incineration for energy recovery must continue to be used.

Expand waste management systems

The basic prerequisite for a good and economically viable circularity of plastics is an effective waste management - from collection and sorting to recovery. Existing waste management systems should be further optimised. In regions without established systems, these need to be built up.

Waste is increasingly becoming an important source of raw materials. The plastics industry speaks for an open EU single market for plastic waste which promotes a harmonised approach to use in recycling plants and possible also regarding imports into Europe.

THE VCI IS CALLING FOR THE FOLLOWING

  • Drive forward sustainable disposal worldwide
    Comprehensive disposal systems are indispensable for the circularity of plastic waste. In its "Alliance to End Plastic Waste", the chemical industry works for building an all-area waste infrastructure, waste collection and consumer education.
  • Promote circularity
    Circularity can only succeed if all actors are involved. Sweeping national quotas for the use of recycled plastic waste (recyclates) in new products cannot achieve the given goals. Instead, the EU internal market for recyclates should be promoted vigorously, for example, by an immediate Europe-wide landfill ban. Chemical recycling should be recognised for meeting recycling targets. Existing waste legislation should be interpreted with an open mind to a range of different technologies, so that chemical recycling – as a supplement to mechanical recycling – can make its contribution.
  • Stricter controls of waste exports
    The Basel Convention with 187 signatory countries regulates exports of waste. The Convention supports a global market for the recovery of plastic waste only among countries with suitable capacities. The decisive point is a more effectively control of exports in the future.

Contact

For questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact us.

 Tina Buchholz

Contact person

Dr. Tina Buchholz

Emissionshandel, Klimaschutz