Germany’s packing industry sets ambitious recycling targets

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Photo by IK

With less than a month to go before the new German packaging act comes into force, the German plastic packaging industry association IK (Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen) has published a set of targets to close the loop on plastics packaging.

The targets, published 30 Nov, have been described by IK as “ambitious but realistic” in order to help the German industry to develop a sustainable plastics packaging strategy.

Additionally, the targets aim to enable the industry, which mainly comprises medium-sized companies, to stand against “the sweeping condemnation of plastic packages with commitment and facts in the emotional and negatively charged public debate.”

As part of the new guideline, IK has set a target that by 2025, at least 1 million tonnes of recycling material or renewable raw materials will be used in the production of plastic packaging in Germany.

To achieve this, processors will need “reliable volumes of recycling material of an adequate quality”. In addition, IK said “a close alliance” with the bottling and packing industry was a must.

“If the retail trade and brand owners accept and demand the use of recycled material and renewable raw materials to a greater extent than is the case today, the plastics packaging industry will be able to offer innovative and sustainable packaging solutions,” says IK General Manager Jürgen Bruder.

The important thing, he noted, is to resolve the conflict of aims between ecological design and marketing.

Citing the “latest figures”, IK said that German manufacturers already use 400,000 tonnes of recycled material in the production of plastic packages. The new target is in response to the EU Commission’s call for the use of a total of 10 million tonnes of recycled material in the European packaging industry by 2025. 

Additionally, the IK aims to make at least 90% of household packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

Currently, over 75% of plastic packages in Germany are recyclable or reusable.

“We regard the 90% target we aim to meet not just as realistic but also as ecologically sound,” said IK Managing Director Dr Isabell Schmidt.

Schmidt explained that a 100 % target for the overall market, which sees many packaged products imported from abroad, cannot be set.

“[Moreover] People need to realise that the necessary changes to some packages may even have a negative impact on their overall ecological footprint, as more material is required,” she added.

This would be the case, for example, regarding the ultra-thin films with highly effective barrier layers to protect sensitive foodstuffs.

“Rejecting these highly innovative solutions in favour of recyclability will result in the use of considerably more material to achieve the same level of performance, if that is at all possible,” the German association added.

“There is, however, still a lot of potential in some areas to improve recyclability without detracting from the efficiency of the material. That's what we intend to concentrate on,” Schmidt added.

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