DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - Germany's federal government said Feb. 17 it expects to reduce rates and roll back compliance dates of the 4-year-old national recycling ordinance. An ordinance expected to be proposed before the German Assembly next month would delay plastics recycling compliance rates and dates by six months. Instead of the current requirement that 64 percent of collected plastics be recycled by July, the proposal would call for a 50 percent recycling rate by Jan. 1, rising to 60 percent in January 1998.
To date, Germany's nationwide collection of used packaging and containers has exceeded most of the government's targets.
The draft also allows for incineration of used paper and plastic packaging to produce energy, prompting opposition to the ordinance by several German environmental groups, including Bund fur Umwelt und Natur-schutz.
Opposition also comes from recyclers. Frank-Rainer Billigmann, managing director of the German waste management industry association Bundesverbandes der Deutschen Ensorgungswirtschaft, said if ap-proved, the law would put incineration on an equal footing with recycling and ``destroy efforts to recycle products completely.''
Billigmann said German industry has created sufficient capacity to meet the original minimum recycling quotas set for 1996.
``We have invested over $4.7 billion and created more than 17,000 jobs,'' he said. ``We have planned our expansion to satisfy the government-imposed quotas. But if the government now decides to lower quotas, it is going to put a squeeze on many of the smaller players in the market.''
Most of the remaining 15 European Union nations follow a 15-45 percent recycled rate of collected plastics. That level was set by the European Parliament late last year, in part to offset the large amount of waste plastics that Germany - which could not process plastic as fast as its citizens collected it - sent across its borders.
Environment Minister Angela Merkel said that although the EU ordinance takes an important step forward in harmonizing recycling initiatives in Europe, ``its targets fall short of creating sufficient recycling capacities and comprehensive waste management systems.''
Jill Bevington, manager of research and translation for environmental consultant Perchards in London, said the new, not-yet-introduced ordinance ``makes more sense in German terms.''
``Germany is developing capacity to handle the recycling rate goals they have set,'' Bevington said.
She noted that while opposition to plastics incineration remains strong, chemical recycling - the process of breaking polymer chains into component parts - is becoming widely accepted.