We stand at a crossroads. The standstill of entire industry sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic slump in the demand for recycled raw materials. In light of the current situation, there is a real risk of the environment being put on the back burner and the economy failing to meet EU-wide recycling targets. At the same time, there is now an opportunity to take decisive action towards safeguarding lifestyles and business practices that protect our climate and resources.


The European Green Deal strengthens our hand here, with its clearly stated objective of remaking the EU economy into a working circular economy. This is the only way to decouple production and consumption from the utilisation of natural resources – and still achieve the Paris climate goals.


As before, our economy continues to be largely linear in design, with only 15 percent of recycled raw materials in Germany being returned to manufacturers for reuse. And yet: the reprocessing/reuse of raw materials has a carbon footprint roughly half the size of the one for primary raw materials. As a result, simply doubling the volume of recycled material used in Germany would save an additional 60 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year. To stimulate demand and create market pull for the production of recyclates, we now need instruments such as minimum use quotas, together with binding quality standards for the use of recycled raw materials.


Lawmakers now need to step up and create the right policy framework. Ultimately, however, proper change can only happen with broad engagement throughout our society. Producers and retailers must use recycled materials and place reusable packaging on the market, consumers need to separate their waste properly and environmental services providers have to meet recycling targets.


Together with the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT, we are assessing in the current study ‘resources SAVED by recycling’ the conservation of resources and greenhouse gas reduction through our recycling activities in comparison to primary production. Through the recirculation of around 6 million tonnes of recyclable materials, we achieved a total saving of approximately 32.3 million tonnes of primary resources in 2019 as well as almost 4.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.


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