At the 24th bvse Waste Plastics Day, which was well attended by more than 300 participants, experts from industry, science and politics discussed issues relating to the circular economy for plastics.
After a welcoming address by bvse President Henry Forster (pictured here on the right) at the opening of the 24th International Used Plastics Day in Neuss, Martin Bäcker, head of the pricing team at industry information service KI, summarized the industry's feedback in his presentation on "Prices and Markets" as follows: high demand coupled with low availability, high volatility and "glaring price differences" in the European recyclate markets. According to Bäcker, the companies surveyed monthly by KI reported spending a lot of time and energy to obtain suitable recycled material. A similar topic was also discussed in the subsequent panel discussion with Gunda Rachut (Director of the Central Packaging Register), Dr. Bettina Rechenberg (Head of Department III "Sustainable Products and Production, Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management" at the Federal Environment Agency), Dr. Martin Engelmann (Managing Director of IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen), Johannes Walter (Waste Management Officer at the Ministry of the Environment in Brandenburg | UMK Special Working Group RESAG Promotion of the Recyclate Market for Plastics) and Dr. Herbert Snell (Vice President of the bvse) moderated by Stefan Krafzik (Editor-in-Chief of 320°), discussed the implementation of the EU plastics strategy in Germany: the development of the plastics markets in the difficult environment of rising energy prices, impending recession, logistics problems, raw material and labor shortages. There was consensus that much was in motion and had already been done in terms of recycling plastics. There was also consensus on the need for uniform standards for the design of recycling-friendly packaging, not only in Germany but also at EU level, in order to promote plastics recycling. However, the discussants were just as divided on how such standards for the recyclability of packaging and a European plastics strategy as a whole should be designed as they were on the question of what role chemical recycling will play in the future.
The workshop "Ways to more plastics recycling - funding instruments and technologies" organized by BKV GmbH also dealt with chemical recycling. But before that, after introductory remarks by Dr. Martin Engelmann, IK general manager and member of the BKV advisory board (see photo on the right), the first part of the workshop dealt with "Promotion instruments for more recyclate use". The discussion on this, moderated by BKV Managing Director Dr. Ingo Sartorius, was introduced by two short keynote speeches: Dr. Thomas Kirschstein of the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW explained key results of a study evaluating economic policy instruments to promote plastics recycling. According to Kirschstein, only purely qualitative statements were formulated on the price instruments considered in the study, such as plastics and CO2 pricing of waste incineration plants (MVA), as well as on quantity instruments such as product-specific recyclate use quotas, polymer-specific substitution quotas and recycling quotas. According to the study, for example, a combination of demand- and supply-side instruments to promote plastics recycling would make sense. In order to increase recyclate production and reduce reprocessing costs, one of the study authors' recommendations for action is that the dual systems should set targets for the recyclability of packaging. According to the study, economic incentives for the use of recyclates could also be implemented more easily via license fees than by introducing binding recyclate use quotas. In the second keynote presentation, Andreas Witschnigg of PreZero Polymers Austria described the recycling company's perspective from a practical perspective. As a steering instrument, Witschnigg said, a "design revolution" is needed above all so that more packaging can be recycled better, as well as, among other things, clear guidelines for the use of recyclates and EU-wide harmonized "recycling guidelines".
Dr. Bettina Rechenberg (Federal Envornmental Agency, UBA) and Klaus-Peter Schmidt (Mauser Werke GmbH) also took part in the subsequent discussion. Dr. Rechenberg described the status of deliberations in her government agency on steering instruments for plastics recycling and emphasized that the avoidance of plastics is also being considered for resource protection and to close the loop. However, a CO2 tax for waste incineration is not being discussed in her agency. Data from Scandinavian studies had not shown any steering effect of such a levy. She sees further potential to be leveraged in the electric and automotive sectors. Rechenberg believes that a clever mix of instruments on the supply and demand side is necessary and is in favor of a combination that leads to avoidance being taken into account and value chains remaining manageable. For Dr. Christoph Epping, who was invited to participate in the second part of the BKV workshop as a representative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUV) and was also asked by Dr. Sartorius to comment on the steering instruments, an important question in the selection of suitable instruments is where plastics should go in the future. For example, he said, the supply of raw materials to industry is becoming an increasingly important issue, and with it, among other things, the question of which instruments can be used to reduce material input and close the loop.
Part 2 of the workshop started with short presentations on "Modern recycling technologies" by Dr. Jörg Rothermel (VCI) and Dr. Klaus Wittstock (BASF). In his presentation, Dr. Rothermel broadened the perspective from the plastics cycle to the carbon cycle, which could be closed, for example, with the help of innovative processes such as chemical recycling and "CO2 recycling" (biomass input and the use of CO2 as a raw material). In his presentation on the role of chemical recycling, Dr. Wittstock emphasized that the use of processes such as pyrolysis only makes sense where mechanical recycling of plastics is not possible, i.e. in the case of contaminated, mixed plastic waste. Also from his point of view, the transformation of industry toward a circular economy is about the circularity of carbon, not just plastic. With chemical recycling, he said, the circularity of carbon can be secured, but stable and positive framework conditions are needed as a prerequisite for investment. In the discussion of the topic, in which Dr. Rothermel and Dr. Wittstock were joined by Dr. Epping and Henry Forster, Dr. Epping rejected a "chemical recycling hostility in Germany." Plants and yields of chemical recycling processes have to be looked at in reality first, he said. After all, these are very energy-intensive processes. For Dr. Wittstock, the framework conditions for chemical recycling processes are more a matter of whether, for example, distributors of packaging from chemical recycling can say: "There's recyclate in it. The packaging is recyclable." Regrettably, Henry Forster did not get a chance to speak on this, because the discussion round came to an abrupt end due to a fire alarm.