Reinhard Schneider, head of the cleaning products manufacturer Werner & Mertz and winner of the German Environmental Award, denounces the use of falsely declared recyclate in packaging and warns against greenwashing.
Instead of increasingly using old plastic from the yellow bag, the import of cheap “recyclate” from Asia continues to increase – without the possibility to check whether it actually is recycled material. Reinhard Schneider, owner of the Mainz-based cleaning agent manufacturer Werner & Mertz, explains: “The risk of consumers being misled is very high here. It’s like money laundering, the origin of the PET is not transparent. It can be disguised in the blink of an eye.”
But not only do false declarations pose a massive problem for consumers in their daily shopping, for the producers of recycled PET in Europe, the cheap goods from Asia are also a major problem – the massive price war ultimately puts all efforts to promote and increase the recycling rate in Europe at risk.
Since 2012, Werner & Mertz has been working with cooperation partners along the entire value chain to promote high-quality mechanical recycling from the yellow bag source as part of the “Recyclate Initiative” and has shown time and again that, from a technological point of view, it is very much possible to produce equivalent packaging from so-called post-consumer recyclate: Since 2014, the PET bottles of the well-known Frosch brand have been made from 100 percent PCR, 20 percent of which comes from the German packaging waste (yellow bag) source. The remaining 80 percent comes from the European beverage bottle collection (bottle-to-bottle). More than 450 million such bottles have entered the market to date. Now the company has recently announced another recycling success: in collaboration with its cooperation partner ALPLA, it had succeeded in increasing the proportion of recyclate from the yellow bag to 50 percent.
Call for financial incentives
For the manufacturing company Werner & Mertz, there are therefore several parameters that urgently need to be readjusted: On the one hand, Werner & Mertz is calling for financial incentives to be created by the legislator for the use of PCR. Werner & Mertz advocates the creation of a fund into which all distributors would have to pay, and only those who use post-consumer recyclate from Europe would receive a refund. In this way, the price war could be remedied.
On the other hand, there is a need for complete legislation that clearly defines what can and cannot be considered recyclate. Werner & Mertz is campaigning for the amendment to the Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act to clearly stipulate that only mechanically processed used plastic from end consumer collections is considered recyclate.
Unfortunately, independent seals that consumers can rely on are very rare. Schneider recommends the RAL quality mark “% recycled plastic”, which indicates how much recyclate actually comes from the yellow bag. This involves documenting all process stages – from sorting and processing to the use of recyclates in individual products – and checking all production sites.
The RAL quality mark indicates the percentage of recyclate from the yellow bag source in the total packaging, including label and closure. The percentage is made up of the weight of the respective components. For example, for the packaging of emsal Parquet, this results in: bottle (100% recyclate from the yellow bag source) with closure and label (0% recyclate each) = 84% total recyclate content.