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New VDI-ZRE study: Recyclates in packaging save resources

The study by the VDI Centre for Resource Efficiency (VDI ZRE) compares the environmental impact and costs of plastic packaging made from recycled material versus virgin material.


According to the information provided, the recently published study "Ecological and Economic Assessment of Resource Consumption - Use of Recycled Plastics in Packaging Materials" by VDI ZRE was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV). It is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and is intended to provide information on the extent to which recyclates are suitable for the manufacture of high-quality packaging products and when the switch to recycled plastics makes economic sense for SMEs. The study, which was reportedly prepared in cooperation with researchers from the Öko-Institut and the Cyclos-HTP Institute, includes a comparative life cycle assessment according to VDI guidelines 4800 sheets 1 and 2 as well as a sensitivity analysis. In addition, it provides a cost comparison for two contrasting plastic-based packaging variants and makes recommendations for evaluation. A bucket for wall paint made of polypropylene (PP) - on the one hand from recycled plastic and on the other from virgin plastic - served as the basic scenario. According to the VDI, the results of the comparison show that the use of recycled material is worthwhile from an ecological point of view. The greenhouse gas potential of a product made from recycled PP is 25 per cent lower than that of the product variant made from virgin PP. From an economic point of view, the use of recycled material is not yet on a par with the use of virgin material. However, the case study would show that it is certainly possible to manufacture products from recycled materials more economically than using primary plastics. At the time of the survey (October 2022), the purchase price, which has the greatest influence on the total specific operating costs, was 54 percent for the product variant made of recycled PP and 62 percent for the product made of primary PP.
Further information: download the study by VDI ZRED (in German)

  • Pressrelease VDI ZRE (Oct. 10, 2023)
  • Image: © VDI ZRE

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