Germany’s PET market is already ahead of the recently published EU plastic strategy and “a perfect example of efficient recycling management” according to the German association for plastics packaging and films, Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen (IK).
Germany’s firmly established recycling system from manufacturing to recycling PET bottles has played a decisive role in achieving this, with 98% of disposable PET bottles now recycled in Germany.
A recent study, Aufkommen und Wiederverwertung von PET-Getränkeverpackungen in Deutschland (PET beverage packaging volume and recycling in Germany) revealed that 93.5% of disposable and reusable bottles collected are recycled, and up to 98% for disposable deposit bottles.
Dr Isabell Schmidt, consultant for Environment and Sustainability at the IK, who is responsible for the PET forum, said: “The disposal bottle deposit in Germany has secured these high quotas,” according to Schmidt. This has proven to be a successful strategy in the fifteen years after its introduction.
Recycling takes priority with PET, 34% of the recycled material is processed into new PET bottles according to the GVM study. Other users include the film industry (27%), textile fibre manufacturers (23%) and other applications such as tape and cleaning agent container production (16%). Eighty percent is recycled within Germany, and the rest is mostly exported to destinations near Germany’s borders. PET material exports to China have seen a steady decrease, so restrictions on plastic waste exports from Germany to China only apply to a limited extent in the German PET industry.
“PET is a high-demand recycled material,” says Schmidt. Further investment in developing the sorting and recycling infrastructure – a key requirement in the new EU-plastic strategy – had already been in the works by the time the German Packaging Act was passed at federal level in 2017. PET packaging from the recycling bag or bin should see even more recycling as a result.
The German PET industry has been practising cooperation along the entire value-added chain for years as now required by the EU Plastics Strategy. Founded in 2014, the RAL quality-control association for PET beverage packaging has seen manufacturers, bottlers and recyclers working together on closed recycling loops. The industry promotes processing recycled PET into new beverage bottles, “Bottle-to-bottle recycling is one of the most important topics in sustainable use of recycled PET,” according to Schmidt. The quality-control association is mainly committed to increasing the amounts of recycled materials used in new packaging.