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Germany’s Green Dot calls for action to help “severely damaged” plastic recycling industry

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German Green Dot plastics recycling
Credit: Der Grüne Punkt

Germany’s Green Dot (Der Grüne Punkt) has called for a producer responsibility fund and a plastics tax to support the country’s struggling plastic recycling industry.

Along with cleaning products company Werner & Mertz and the German Association for the Waste, Water and Raw Materials Industries (BDE), the extended producer responsibility agency said that oil prices have made virgin plastics cheap. This is especially exacerbated by virgin plastic being exempt from petroleum tax and EU levies.

As a result, demand for recycled plastic has fallen even if the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in household plastic use increasing.

The organisations wants to see a stronger focus on sustainability in public procurement, a fund system, a new plastic tax for new goods and a clearly defined minimum rate for the use of recyclates combined with financial incentives that will save plastic recycling from extermination and, after the corona crisis, will ensure a stable, sustainable circular economy as an important contribution to climate protection.   

Green Dot chief executive Michael Wiener said: “The potential of the circular economy for climate protection, especially for plastic, has not yet been exhausted. We are missing out on the economic opportunities the circular economy offers.

“A circular economy that earns the name creates jobs and brings urgently needed added value into the European Union. Instead, we are experiencing a complete market failure.

“Recycled plastic saves up to 50% in greenhouse gas emissions generated by new plastic, but that is not reflected in the price.

“Politicians have to set defined recyclate utilisation goals for certain product groups in order to promote the creation of sustainable recyclate markets and provide the necessary investment security. In July 2020 the [German] federal government will take over the EU Council Presidency – a good opportunity to advance relevant measures.”

BDE president Peter Kurth added: “The decline in oil prices intensified the already difficult circumstances for many plastic recyclers.

“Expensively produced recyclates find no takers, investments in better recycling are put off or cancelled because refinancing appears impossible.

“Given the lack of political action, plastic recycling is threatened with severe damage. Anyone who wants a successful, sustainable economy has to employ suitable instruments that have been known for a long time.

“An altered procurement process that takes ecological aspects seriously should be at the top of the agenda.”

European plastic recyclers are struggling due to the cheap oil price, and therefore cheap virgin plastic price. The Netherlands plastic recycling industry has also said its market has collapsed.

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