Packaging and Sustainability

Chemical recycling must be accounted for in the right way

Discussion on chemical recycling of packaging and current regulatory projects at the 20th AGVU Orientation Day

Berlin, 23.06.2023

On Thursday, 22 June, the 20th “AGVU Orientation Day” took place. The conference with more than 100 participants from industry, politics and administration as well as press and NGOs offered a broad insight into current regulatory projects, the controversial topic “chemical recycling”, as well as the CO2-saving potential of the packaging sector.

Stefanie Schäfter from the Federal Ministry for the Environment first presented the status of work for the “National Circular Economy Strategy” planned for 2024. The strategy is to contribute to the reduction of primary raw material consumption and the decarbonisation of industry.

Dr. Aliaksandra Shuliakevich from the German Chemical Industry Association, and Dr. Alexander Kronimus, Plastics Europe Germany, explained the principles and opportunities of chemical recycling, which breaks down plastic waste into its molecular components: “These technologies offer the chance that waste that cannot be recycled mechanically can be recycled in a high-quality way and, for example, used again for food contact”. Controversial discussions focused on methods for assigning the property “recycled” to the quantities of plastic produced in a complex process. “There must be no whitewashing here – chemical recycling must be accounted for in the right way,” said Thorsten Hornung from the recycling company Saperatec – it is indispensable that consumers can rely on statements about the recycled content of packaging.

In the second part of the event, a study was presented that forecasts the contribution of the packaging sector to the German climate neutrality target in 2045. “According to our calculations, CO2 emissions from the packaging sector in Germany can be reduced by up to 94% by 2045 compared to 2021,” explained Kurt Schüler from the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung (GVM). This enormous savings potential, he said, was due to a triad of improved recycling of packaging, the conversion of production and recycling processes to renewable energies, and declining packaging consumption in Germany.

Another focus was on a planned revision of the national Packaging Act, which is intended to ensure that sustainable packaging will be more financially rewarding for manufacturers in the future: “The instrument of EPR fees can be used to effectively reward the environmentally friendly design of a package,” explained Dr. Juliane Hilf from the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Moreover, this long-awaited initiative of the Federal Environment Ministry does not conflict with the contents of the EU Packaging Regulation currently being negotiated in Brussels, emphasised Hilf.

AGVU has been committed to product responsibility in packaging since 1986. and advocates environmentally sound and resource-saving use and recycling. The association represents the entire value chain: from the packaging industry to the consumer goods industry and trade to the dual systems, disposal companies and recyclers.

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