The new must: Design for Recycling!

From 2019, legislators will be demanding higher recycling rates in order to promote the use of sustainable packaging and the introduction of recycling management. What is needed are new concepts with which packaging can fulfil its main function and at the same time be better recycled. If this does not work, there is a threat of further government intervention.

Kaufland has a comprehensive plastics strategy – more sustainable packaging, less plastic, materials that can be recycled better. The retail company from Neckarsulm is already reducing plastic packaging, for example for organic K-bananas. They now come with a cardboard sleeve instead of foil bags. “This alone saves us around 32 tons of packaging per year” says Procurement Director Frank Hirnschal proudly.

Competitor Tegut, on the other hand, has chosen fruit and vegetable bags made from the renewable raw material sugar cane. According to Managing Director Thomas Gutberlet, the reason is their very good recyclability in the existing recycling system. However, this measure is only the last of many activities that the Fulda-based company has undertaken in recent years. After all: “We haven’t been selling any plastic bags since 2007”, says Gutberlet.

The retail giant Rewe is also active in the field of plastic avoidance. The stores pack organic apples on an innovative material with a good ecological balance, which consists of 40 percent sun-dried grass and 60 percent wood. “We are breaking completely new ground with paper made from grass,” says Dirk Heim, Head of Sustainability. As part of the Group’s strategy to further reduce plastic packaging, organic avocados or organic sweet potatoes are also provided with a logo and further information by laser inscription via “Natural Branding”.

Laws provide for movement

The manufacturers are taking action too. Nestlé aims to save at least 140,000 tonnes of packaging material between 2015 and 2020. Unilever is committed to using only plastics that are fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Henkel reports savings of 1,400 tonnes of plastic per year through eco-packaging design. And the drugstore chain dm has revised the statics of bottles to reduce wall thicknesses and thus the amount of material used. In addition, many bottles or PET packagings contain a high proportion of recycled material.

The activities are less due to the plastic bag, which has been on everyone’s lips for months, because plastic waste in the sea or microplastic particles in the water are causing headlines. Many retailers and manufacturers are more likely to be reacting to the EU’s recycling package and the new packaging law set to enter into force in 2019. Both regulations are intended to promote the efficient use of resources. Added to this is the growing environmental awareness of customers who don’t understand why they should be buying organic bananas wrapped in foil.

Although less than 5 percent of the waste produced in Germany consists of packaging, this waste is particularly visible. Less visible to the public is the fact that in 2015, according to the Federal Environment Agency, around 70 percent of packaging waste was recycled and 97 percent was put to use.

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