VCI position in a ntutshell

Plastics in the Environment

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. They are used, 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 expand recycling

In Germany, still 53% 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 essential 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 a very early stage both in quantitative and technological terms. For this reason, incineration for energy recovery must continue to be used.

The basic prerequisite for a good and economically viable circularity of plastics is an appropriate waste management - from collection and sorting to recovery.

The EU ”plastic levy“ sets the wrong course

To fund the EU budget, the European Council decided for new own resources, inter alia, a payment by Member States on non-recycled plastic packaging waste from January 2021. It remains to be seen what will happen with this and whether the income will be used to advance the circular economy. It is also unclear how the Member States will implement refinancing.


  • 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.
  • Use the EU “plastic levy“ to advance the circular economy
    If the EU "plastic levy" on non-recycled plastic packaging waste is implemented, it must be ensured that the income is channelled back into the promotion of a circular economy.

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Dr. Tina Buchholz