It is no secret: Germany has a serious problem with digitalization. Germans famously love to pay using cash, for example, which has proven an issue for some of our staff while traveling to Messe Friedrichshafen.
According to European Union data, only Bulgarians, Italians and Romanians use digital government services less than Germans. A law introduced in 2017 decreed that, by 2022, 575 services would be available in digital form. In the end, just 128 were. And many merely provided an online front end.
Not only is the German government failing to keep up with its digitalization promises, but also Germans themselves show a lot of resistance to the change. Something else the Germans are anecdotally known for, on the other hand, is their love for recycling. If you have never been given a lecture by a neighbor on how to most efficiently and accurately recycle your trash, then you haven't lived in Germany.
In a conference room at Fakuma, Christian Schiller, CEO and founder of Cirplus, argued that Germany's worst enemy is actually the key for improving its beloved recycling system.
The Hamburg-based company is Europe's largest digital procurement platform for recycled plastics. It already brings together more than 3,000 plastics processors, product manufacturers, recyclers and disposers from more than 100 countries, with 4 million metric tons of plastic material being listed on the platform as of early 2023.
The procurement platform bridges the gap between buyers and sellers of plastic waste feedstock and recyclates, facilitating end-to-end transactions. It connects stakeholders looking to buy or sell post-consumer or post-industrial recyclate on a spot or contract basis. Polymers available on the platform include PET, high and low density polyethylene, polypropylene, ABS and nylon.
The procurement process is powered by artificial intelligence, Schiller said, bringing transparency and reliability to complex markets that have previously been technologically underserved.
Cirplus is also the initiator of DIN SPEC 91446, the world's first classification of recycled plastics by data quality levels for use and digital trading. Schiller said the certification facilitates the procurement process by bringing transparency about the materials being traded and avoiding misunderstandings.
Cirplus' founder has also been appointed as one of 20 members of the German government's expert council to advise on the development of the National Circular Economy Strategy in the field of plastics.
"We are convinced that optimized purchasing and sales processes can reduce transaction costs for the use of recycled plastics by at least 25 percent," Schiller said in a statement.
"In this way, digitalization will make a significant contribution to reducing the cost differential between virgin materials and recyclates. The barriers to increased use of recycled plastics will be lowered, and new customers and markets can be developed. This is an important step towards climate neutrality and a circular economy," he said.