Germany set a record for recycling in 2022. The country mechanically recycled 67.5 percent of its plastic waste, a 2 percent increase from the previous year.
The data, shared by the German Central Agency Packaging Register (ZSVR) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) during a news conference, reveals that Germany’s plastic recycling rate was above the legal requirement of 63 percent that was launched in 2022 through the German Packaging Act (VerpackG).
Germany introduced its Packaging Act in 2019 as the implementation into national law of the European Packaging Directive. It was amended in July 2021, with changes coming into force in January 2022. The Act makes traders responsible for participation in the recycling of their products’ packaging. Anyone selling packaged products to private customers is obliged to participate in a so-called dual system. Distributors must register and license their packaging with the packaging register LUCID. Dual systems organize the nationwide collection, sorting, and recovering of this used packaging.
ZSVR also shared that recycling of plastic packaging in 2022 took place almost exclusively in Germany (84.4 percent) and in the European Union (15.5 percent), with only 0.1 percent of plastic waste exported to non-EU countries, particularly Turkey, Switzerland and Serbia.
This data point is significant in the face of calls by Plastics Recycling Europe for "urgent measures" to slow down "non-transparent imports" of recycled resin from non-European countries. Germany is above the EU average for recycling of plastic waste, ranking No. 10 in 2018 according to Eurostat data, when Lithuania led with a 69.3 percent recycling rate. Germany has since increased its rate from 42 percent to the current 67.5 percent, an impressive 25 percentage points. That means that although Europe’s largest economy, and largest waste producer, is doing the vast majority of its significant amount of plastic recycling, lack of price competitiveness still drives imports of recycled resin up.
Data also shows that consumption of plastic packaging decreased in 2022 compared to the previous year, amounting to 1,539 kilotons. The Society for Packaging Market Research (GVM) forecasts a further decline of around 170 kilotons by 2024. In contrast, the GVM expects an increase of almost 50,000 tons for packaging composites in the same year.
Composite packaging (paper-plastic, paper-aluminium, paper-tinplate) was one of three packaging materials that did not meet Germany’s recycling quotas in 2022, alongside glass and beverage cartons. A UBA study showed that almost every other packaging material with less than 90 oercebt recyclability is composite packaging.
“Despite this, composite packaging is increasingly replacing plastic packaging,” said Isabell Schmidt, managing director of the German Association for Plastic Packaging. “Unilaterally discriminatory special targets for plastics, as recently called for in the European Packaging Regulation, as well as exemptions from the recyclate use quotas could further reinforce the unwanted market trend towards composite packaging,” she warned, referring to the recently adopted amendments to the PPWR.