The history of plastics
We all come into contact with it hundreds of times a day: plastic. This is the colloquial term for plastics of all kinds.Plastics are synthetic solids produced from crude oil, or semi-synthetic solids produced by modifying natural polymers.
Plastic has many advantages, especially as a packaging material: it is light, cheap to produce and resistant. Versatile and versatile, it is highly relevant for companies and has become an indispensable part of trade and industry. Since 1950, some 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced worldwide. This corresponds to the weight of 822,000 Eiffel Towers or 80,000,000 blue whales.
But plastic does not only have advantages. Plastics take an average of 450 years to decompose and currently recycling rates are still low. In 2017, only 30% of plastic waste in Europe will be recycled and much of this will be packaging. The result is that it ends up in the stomachs of birds and fish, littering the seas and becoming a foreign body in the ecosystem for centuries to come. Only 7.2% of the plastic produced to date has been recycled, while everything else is still floating around somewhere in our environment or has been burned in landfills.
And what is recyclate?
That something that has been recycled. A product of a recycling process. That is what it says in the Duden. But what exactly is behind it?In short, the term recyclate stands for all substances and objects that are made wholly or partly from materials that have been recycled. The point is that waste, especially post-consumer waste, i.e. waste from our households, can be turned back into the products they once were. Recycling paper and glass can be thought of here, but the term recyclate is often used, especially in connection with plastic
This refers to the production of new plastic by recycling discarded plastic. The recycling process of plastic waste is usually relatively simple: The plastic correctly disposed of by the consumer is shredded into granulate. This is then melted down and used as (secondary) raw material for new items and packaging.
It can therefore be said that manufacturing with recycled plastic is currently the most sustainable way to produce something from plastic. Unfortunately, even compostable plastics are not a cure for plastic waste. Bio-plastic sounds like green meadows and nature, but this is not as simple as it is presented to the consumer. No matter whether the plastic used is made of coal and petroleum, corn or soya, no matter what chemical base it has: How is a yoghurt cup supposed to know whether it is in the supermarket or on the compost and from when on it may decompose? Plastic can be assembled in such a way that it can be disassembled back into its components or remain so forever. This means that conventional petroleum-based plastic can also be "biodegradable", whereas plastic containing corn will not dissolve for a hundred years.
But plastic has become an indispensable part of our everyday life and therefore we take to heart what Jack Johnson sings so beautifully: Reduce, Reuse, RECYCLE!
How much is currently beeing recycled?
Since plastic is a valuable, reusable resource, the recycling economy must be promoted and more efficient recycling must be carried out. But separating waste cleanly and producing pure recycled materials is expensive and requires huge investments. Germany, recycling country? We produce more waste than any other European country. But we supposedly recycle particularly well. Is that really true?
Recycling champion Germany is ahead of Austria, Belgium and Slovenia with a recycling rate of 66%. However, on closer inspection, our rough balance sheet is rather eyewash, because the term recycling is subject to quite a creative interpretation. When calculating the recycling rate of our waste volume, everything that is delivered to recycling and composting plants is included, regardless of whether it is recyclable or not. If we look at the part that is actually recycled, the figure is about 15-25% lower than advertised.
Can the quality of recyclate compete with that of new plastic?
Especially plastic packaging for food, such as that of ourmouthwashes and ourSuperBlack toothpaste must meet strict quality standards. These apply to newly produced packaging materials as well as recycled packaging materials. Therefore: Yes! As a packaging material recycled material can absolutely keep up!
How can the use of recyclates be increased?
A high recycling rate is essential to ensure that the material is retained as a valuable resource. Secondary raw materials such as recyclate can only be produced if they are well separated. Around 92% of consumers think that waste separation is correct and support the recycling of packaging waste. In order to make the best possible use of this potential and to ensure that modern recycling can develop its environmentally friendly effect, there are a few simple rules to be observed when sorting waste. Because when it comes to separating waste, care is the most important thing!
Which waste is put into which bin and which bins?
When it comes to plastics recycling, i.e. recycled material, the focus is on the "yellow bag" or "yellow bin". Both are exclusively reserved for lightweight packaging made of metal, composite material and plastic! These include yoghurt pots and their lids, polystyrene packaging and empty plastic containers from your bathroom, such as toothpaste tubes and mouthwash bottles.
But no rule without exception: locally, collection systems can vary. Ask your local authority's waste adviser or the responsible waste disposal company for information on the correct way to separate waste in your region!
What can I do as a consumer?
In short: dispose of old plastic correctly, try to produce less plastic waste and look for products with recycled packaging when shopping!