• But downcycling also conserves resources

    Innovative recycling technologies need better promotion

    Much of what is referred to today as ‘recycling’ is actually ‘downcycling’. One speaks of downcycling when recycling results in a product or raw material of lower quality than was originally the case. At first glance, this appears to be a bad thing, but downcycling also has an ecological significance that should not be neglected: it also helps to conserve resources and thus protects the environment. Downcycling may be second best, but it is far from being bad. It would be far better, though, if innovations such as a digital watermark on plastic packaging could be used to improve the quality of the recycled material. The campaigning for this by packaging manufacturer PACCOR is exemplary.

  • Packaging made of recycled material really is sustainable

    Exporting waste is detrimental to a functioning recyclate market

    Turning old into new. That would be a simple way of defining recycling. It also applies to plastics: used plastic products are sorted, in other words separated according to type, washed, melted down and then processed into so-called recyclates. In this way, what would otherwise be waste becomes valuable secondary raw materials that can be used again to make new plastic products. The process offers enormous benefits: the recycled plastic can be used a second time and it is not necessary to produce new plastic to replace it. This saves raw materials and energy – that’s how sustainability really works.

  • Advertising claims for ‘ecological’ paper-based composite packaging are greenwashing

    Experts are advocating packaging made of mono-materials – such as recycling-friendly plastic

    When measures regarding packaging waste and increased sustainability in the packaging sector are discussed, criticism is aimed unfairly at plastic packaging. Studies on the subject have made this clear time and time again. Nevertheless, the ongoing criticism of plastic packaging has now led to quite a few companies replacing pure plastic packaging with packaging that contains paper. This is apparently intended to make the packaging ‘greener’. As a result, composite packaging made of paper and plastic is increasingly replacing pure plastic packaging in shops. However, this is creating an increasing problem when it comes to recycling the packaging, as the German Central Agency Packaging Register (ZSVR) is now warning. This is because such fibre-based packaging with a plastic content can only be partially recycled at best.

  • Possible alternative to mechanical recycling is ecologically and economically disadvantageous

    It should therefore not count towards statutory recycling rates

    As things stand at present, recovering materials mechanically from waste is fundamentally better than chemical recycling, both ecologically and economically. That is the conclusion of a recent study by Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA). In a background paper on chemical recycling published recently, the federal authority criticises the high energy input required to chemically break down used plastics into their components and then produce new plastics from them. The UBA experts also find it perturbing that chemical recycling produces large quantities of waste and contaminants that cannot be recycled. And the experts also note that the productivity of chemical recycling is poor. Their conclusions: chemical recycling is ecologically and economically not an alternative to mechanical recycling, is not fully developed technically and should therefore not count as part of the recycling rate for material recovery from used plastics.

  • Bioplastics create more problems than they solve

    Environmental groups calling for recycling instead of bioplastics

    Because of their durability, waste plastics constitute an undesirable but easily avoidable impact on the environment. Although packaging made of bioplastics presents itself as an eco-friendly alternative, the fact is that most of these products are detrimental to the environment and climate – during their production and their disposal.

  • Eliminating separation errors could improve recycling rate

    Room for improvement even for Germany, the world’s waste-separation champion

    Depending on how people in other countries see things, Germans are often praised or ridiculed for being the world’s waste-separation champions. Most households in the country have a bin for packaging waste, another for organic waste and yet another for residual waste, but the separation of waste by consumers is not going as well as it should because packaging waste is ending up in the wrong bin, something that the waste-disposal industry calls ‘intelligente Fehlwürfe’, literally ‘intelligent misthrows’. It is one of the reasons why recycling rates for plastics are lower than those for paper, glass and metals. It is useful therefore to remind oneself from time to time which waste belongs in which bin.

  • Fishing industry cause of most plastic waste in world’s oceans

    Plastic packaging being pilloried unfairly

    When it comes to the issue of plastics in the oceans of the world, images of waste usually appear in the media that give the impression that plastic packaging is the main cause of such pollution. This preconception does not stand up to closer scrutiny, though. Probably around half of the plastic debris in the world’s oceans is attributable to the fishing industry. The renowned environmental and animal protection organisation WWF even believes that the bulk of the plastic waste comes from fishing – in the form of nets, ropes, etc. And the WWF warns that a million tonnes of material like this is added every year.

  • Sand extraction impacting both environment and climate

    Plastics consume comparatively few resources – recycling offers complete solution

    People are changing the world at breakneck speed, erecting buildings and creating litter. Ferry ports and airports, roads and bridges, houses and factories, cars and clothes, PCs and smartphones are all devouring natural resources – often at the expense of species-rich ecosystems. A team led by Emily Elhacham of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel recently estimated the consumption of resources over the past 120 years and compared it with the biomass of all living creatures, on land and in water. According to the results, the things produced by people around 1900 corresponded to only about three per cent of the living biomass.

  • European study: reusable packaging comes off worst in sustainability comparison

    Amendment to Packaging Act ignores facts and consumers’ wishes

    Paper-based food and drink packaging used in fast-food restaurants is better for the environment than the reusable alternatives. That is the conclusion of a recent study commissioned by the European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA). According to experts, the results of this scientific study inevitably raise the question of whether the German Federal Government is on the right track with its recently adopted amendment to the Packaging Act. Clearly not, say the experts.

  • Mandatory marking of single-use plastic cups counter-productive and incompatible with closed-loop recycling

    The EU countries have reached agreement on uniform regulations for single-use products. Certain products will be banned from the summer of 2021, while others will be subject to strict requirements. Manufacturers have criticised the new regulation, saying that the new marking requirement is incompatible with sustainable recycling concepts. The regulation is based on incorrect information and leads to costs that will place an excessive burden on producers and consumers.

  • After being used, plastics can be utilised again in many ways

    Recycling saves valuable resources and cuts environmental impact

    It still seems to be zeitgeisty for some people to make disparaging remarks about used plastics. This is reflected in the sometimes completely indiscriminate accusations made against plastic waste that politicians adopt as public opinion and then transform into nonsensical regulations such as the ‘plastic tax’ planned by the EU Commission – even though experts are arguing vehemently against it. Packaging, and plastic packaging in particular, is not waste but a valuable resource. Experts refer to the sorted and chopped up used plastic material as recyclate and it can be used to make new plastic products.

  • International life cycle analyses prove environmental advantages of plastics as packaging material

    Alternative materials increase negative environmental impact and cost to society

    Unbiased and ideology-free life-cycle studies have repeatedly highlighted the advantages of plastic packaging compared to other materials. Contrary to some preconceived notions, substitution analyses all over the world have concluded that plastic packaging is a very efficient choice when it comes to energy consumption, global warming and various other environmental issues – including the cost to society.

  • Deforestation is exacerbating the climate crisis

    Rising paper consumption is accelerating deforestation

    Packaging: paper’s carbon footprint is inferior to that of plastics

    Increasing paper consumption worldwide – especially for the production of packaging – is boosting deforestation and increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. It means the supposedly eco-friendly paper bag is proving to be a driver of climate change. Replacing plastic packaging with paper packaging is barking up the wrong tree.

  • Rid plastic bags of their ‘dirty-urchin’ image!

    Life-cycle analyses show that plastic bags perform better than cotton or paper bags when it comes to environmental impact

    Multiple use is decisive

    Prejudices and even misjudgements can persist longer if they are repeated enough times. All too often, it is only on closer inspection that they turn out to be misleading.

  • Is the ecological superiority of the returnable glass bottle just a myth?

    The lightweight returnable PET bottle offers quite a lot of benefits.

    The returnable glass bottle is often presented as being exemplary when it comes to discussions on sustainable beverage packaging. The reasoning is that the thick glass bottle is repeatedly washed and then refilled, so it is not a ‘single use’ bottle.

  • Undesirable migration: when substances harmful to health migrate from the packaging into food.

    There is no reason why food should contain printing ink.

    Eco-friendly is not always health friendly as well.

    Merely appearing to be ecological is no guarantee for ensuring the consumer’s health is adequately protected. This is unfortunately particularly true in an area that is extremely sensitive for the well-being of all of us: food packaging. Various studies have made this clear. They have shown that substances that are undesirable because they are harmful to health can be transferred from paper and cardboard packaging, which is often recycled, to the foodstuffs it contains. According to the experts, this could be the case with recycled cardboard packaging.

  • “Exporting waste was basically a mistake”/ “Single-use can also be multiple-use”.

    Interview with the management of PACCOR Packaging.

    Symbolic politics focuses on large symbols. The German federal government has now decided to end the practice of throwing away single-use plastics that end up in the rubbish instead of being recycled or reused. In doing so, it’s implementing an EU directive that wants to ban waste-intensive single-use plastic products from 2021. But what makes plastics irreplaceable are their ability to protect food. During a pandemic, hygiene is not just something that happens by chance. When it comes to reuse and recycling, though, plastic packaging manufacturer PACCOR has gone a significant step further: the company has the technological capability to recycle plastic packaging in a genuine material loop, as its board members Andreas Schütte (CEO) and Nicolas Lorenz (CCO) explain in the following interview. The new technology it uses to sort waste has the benefit that the utility value of plastic packaging can be utilised indefinitely, for instance for the important task of avoiding food losses.

  • Instrument of environmental policy or ‘trick’ to counter budget deficits?

    Levy would not benefit the EU budget or the environment but would strip the circular economy of important funds.

    Response to the suggested EU-wide levy on non-recycled plastic packaging – the so-called ‘plastics tax’ – has not been very positive. Experts are harshly critical: they say it is not effective, neither for environmental protection nor for budgetary consolidation. On the other hand, environmental associations see the possible new tax as an opportunity to ‘increase recycling and support waste-avoidance programmes’.

  • Waste rates of up to 50 per cent are a scandal.

    Packaging must protect: initially the food, then the consumer’s health.

    People are justifiably outraged when they see a development like that in the USA, where half of all food is deemed ‘spoiled’ and simply goes to waste.


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