• Studies confirm companies have credibility deficit where sustainability is concerned

    Many people are keen to consume sustainably. And many of those wanting to consume more responsibly want to know what sustainable consumption means exactly and what they need to do. 

    The Competence Centre for Sustainable Consumption (KNK) of the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), which was launched by the German government in 2017, says, “Sustainable consumption means consuming today in such a way that both present and future generations can meet their needs without exceeding the impact limits that the Earth is capable of withstanding.” 

  • Consumer ratings not always realistic

    Sustainability is trendy. Also, or perhaps we should say particularly, in packaging. That’s why retailers and manufacturers are increasingly turning to sustainable packaging materials – or rather to materials that are considered to be sustainable. After all, in surveys conducted in Germany, a clear majority of consumers regularly express the desire for sustainable packaging. Supposedly, a clear majority of consumers in the country are even willing to pay more money for food packaging if they themselves perceive it as sustainable. This was the result of a recent study carried out by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). So which packaging is not only perceived as being environmentally friendly, but really is sustainable as well?

  • Recovery and re-use protect marine life proactively

    The world’s oceans are choking on plastic waste. It is not only environmentalists, nature conservationists and animal rights activists who are complaining. Politicians have also recognised the signs of the times: at its meeting in Nairobi in March this year, the United Nations Environment Assembly agreed to start negotiations on a legally binding global convention to combat plastic waste. Welcoming the agreement, Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said that around eleven million tonnes of plastic find their way into the sea every year. He warned that this figure will triple over the next 20 years unless effective global action is taken.

  • Fraunhofer study reveals lack of clear political guidelines

    The adage that reusable is better than single-use also applies to plastic packaging in nearly every respect. This has been underlined by a recent study of plastic-based reusable systems in the circular economy conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) on behalf of the Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg (SIM), a foundation that promotes the use of reusable beverage packaging. The researchers compared three plastic-based reusable packaging systems with their single-use alternatives. They found that reusable beats single-use in 14 of the 17 categories examined and offers enormous potential when it comes to establishing a successful circular economy. However, the scientists criticise the absence of clear political framework conditions and a lack of implementation of the existing waste hierarchy, which actually prioritises reusables.

  • Optimised plastic packaging extends shelf life of products

    Unused food also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions

    Around 30 per cent of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are food related. However, according to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about a third of all food produced for human consumption never reaches the consumer’s plate but ends up in the rubbish instead. As the environmental organisation WWF has pointed out, this means that around ten per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to such food waste.

  • Supposedly environmentally friendly packaging is often not very recyclable

    More and more so-called eco-friendly packaging is appearing on the market. Consumer demand for more sustainability has led many product manufacturers to switch from all-plastic packaging to so-called fibre-based packaging, such as cardboard or paper, which nevertheless also contains plastics. The stupid thing is that these materials, which are marketed as being particularly ecological, perform much worse when it comes to recycling. This can quickly give rise to suspicion of greenwashing.

  • New holistic concept for production and disposal of plastics results in net-zero GHG emissions

    It is possible to produce plastics both economically and in a climate-neutral manner by using an innovative combination of three existing technologies: recycling, biomass utilisation and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). This has now been demonstrated in a new study by an international team of researchers from the RWTH Aachen University, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and the University of California Santa Barbara. According to the study, a new holistic model for plastics production and disposal would allow plastics to be produced without causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or, as the scientists put it, with so-called net zero GHG emissions.

  • NABU study: environmental assessments of packaging are not clear-cut

    Recyclability is important

    There is no such thing as a farm animal with a woolly coat that lays eggs, gives us milk and supplies us with meat, nor is there any form of packaging that is ideally suited to every application. Or to put it another way: there is no packaging material that is best suited to protect both the product and the environment in an optimal manner. It follows, therefore, that no form of packaging can – and should – be branded as being green. Nevertheless, certain prejudices and misconceptions persist. Numerous studies have already made it clear that it does not make sense to demonise individual materials. They have shown, for example, that the plastic bag is by no means an ecological urchin and that, in principle, bags made of cotton or paper are no better. A recent study by ifeu Institute on behalf of the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) on the environmental impact of common forms of packaging for food makes this clear yet again. This study clearly shows that the best type of packaging should be used for each specific application, whether it be sheet metal, glass, paper or plastic. The authors of the study emphasise that a fundamentally important criterion when choosing the most suitable form of packaging is its recyclability, i.e. how well the raw materials of the material can be kept in a loop. And plastics, for example, are well to the fore in this respect.

  • Trade associations advocating development of functioning circular economy for plastics

    Fraunhofer study: genuine circular economy is needed

    Companies from Germany’s plastics and recycling sector want to work together to establish a functioning circular economy for the material. Three trade associations, Plastics Europe Deutschland, the German Association of Plastics Converters (GKV) and VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery, together with two organisations from the waste disposal and recycling sector, BDE and the Federal Association for Secondary Raw Materials and Waste Disposal (bvse), have issued a joint position paper announcing they are now pursuing the goal of benefiting even more from the benefits of plastics as a material. The announcement says that plastics already make a fundamental contribution to climate protection. And the more used plastics that are reused, the greater is the benefit to the material’s CO2 balance. This is confirmed by a recent study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT).

  • Protecting food protects the environment

    Climate footprint of fresh produce: well-packaged beats unpackaged

    Enormous quantities of greenhouse gases are released in order to feed humanity. A sizeable proportion of these emissions is unnecessary because worldwide a third of all food ends up in the rubbish instead of in people’s stomachs. Without this waste, up to ten per cent of climate-damaging emissions could be avoided. Packaging optimised to extend the shelf life of food can make an important contribution here.

  • 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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