Is recycling harmful to the environment

Avoiding plastic waste: how useful is recycling?

Status: 03/18/2021 10:03 a.m.

Although many have long separated their garbage so that it can be recycled, packaging made from old plastic is only now coming onto the market. Not all are equally good for the environment.

by Verena von Ondarza

Every person in Germany produces around 40 kilograms of packaging waste per year, according to the Heinrich Böll Foundation's plastic atlas. Packaging made from old plastic can help protect the environment. Because for the production of plastic we need crude oil. The production of packaging made from recycled plastic releases a good 80 percent less CO2 than the same packaging made from new plastic.

Old plastic is not the same as old plastic

It is not always clear from which material, so-called old plastic, recycled plastic is made. Large manufacturers have already been warned for misleading advertising. There are two types of old plastic:

  • There are Old plastic from production leftovers industry - they have been melted down and reused for years.
  • And there is the so-called Post-consumer recyclate (PCR), which is made from used plastic packaging.

A survey by Markt among the leading corporations shows, however, that everyone is now relying on used plastic from packaging waste.

Ocean plastic: recycled plastic from the ocean?

Some manufacturers are particularly striking in advertising their products as part of the fight against plastic in the sea. But as a rule, so-called ocean plastic is not plastic from the sea, but plastic that was collected on the beach and on land.

According to experts, plastic from the sea can practically not be further processed because different types of plastic mix with each other in the water, get tangled and also absorb mussels, sand or pollutants.

Quality mark for old plastic

Not all manufacturers aggressively advertise that they use waste plastic. Often you will only find small indications on the packaging. The independent quality mark "Recyclates from household recyclable material collections" provides additional security. Manufacturers who use it undertake to indicate the origin of the old plastic. For example, they show how high the proportion of waste in the yellow bag is.

Recognize bottles from recycling

If you look closely, you can tell by the type of used plastic on bottles:

  • When held against light, transparent bottles made from recycled material have a slight blue or green tinge. This is because the main source of old plastic is the non-returnable PET bottle collection. In addition to many transparent bottles, there are also blue and green bottles in circulation.
  • Some manufacturers, especially in the natural cosmetics sector, rely on used plastic bottles made from the plastic HDPE. They are often white with a gray or beige tinge.

Why manufacturers recycle plastic

The industry has not switched to packaging made of old plastic entirely voluntarily. The Packaging Act, which has been in force since January 1, 2019, stipulates that manufacturers must significantly increase the recycling rate in Germany. 63 percent of packaging is to be recycled by 2022. In order to achieve the quota, environmentalists and recycling companies warn that manufacturers must make their packaging more recyclable. That means they have to be careful not to mix different types of plastic and make their packaging much less colorful.

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Market | 03/15/2021 | 8:15 pm