Plastic waste: No more consuming in the bin! – Business

First, the good news. Plastic straws are dying out, as are disposable tableware and plastic bags. More and more people are running around with reusable cups and lunch boxes. And if a supermarket dares to offer sliced ​​fruit or individual bananas in plastic packages, a viral storm is sure. Rarely has the awareness of sustainable action been as high as it is today. Not only large environmental organizations, but also the federal government and the European Commission have declared war on mountains of plastic waste. And no matter how the eco-populist debate is conducted, it is still going on.

But the reality is different. Germany is Europe’s champion in throwing away. Each year in Germany, per capita, 220 kg of packaging waste are produced. This is an absurd amount. And it is not decreasing, on the contrary: the flood of packaging waste is still growing. To date, the world has covered the planet with a staggering 8.3 billion tons of plastic. This is evident in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and India, where people and the environment are at risk of suffocation from the garbage of the Western world.

Too many people still believe that the trash in the world’s oceans is different from what they throw in the trash at home. After all, what can Germany, a recycling pioneer, do if dirty plastic lands in Malaysia’s oceans? A whole lot.

About a third of the packaging that ends up in the yellow bag is still considered ‘non-recyclable’. They are either heavily soiled or made of composite materials that are difficult to separate. However, rather than developing better sorting systems, it has so far been cheaper to simply incinerate or export the plastic waste.

Losing face for the German recycling industry

For decades, almost half of the global plastic waste ended up in China. But the country no longer wants the world’s garbage and has stopped importing it. Disposal companies faced a choice: whether to invest a lot of money and build new, more modern plants to recycle additional waste? Or are you looking for a new buyer in Southeast Asia for whom the waste business is profitable? The latter was chosen.

It is a loss of face for the industry of a country that not only prides itself on being a world champion in recycling, but also wants to be praised for its engineering skills. It is unacceptable to throw away German garbage in a country that cannot even handle its own garbage. If you want to win the battle against plastic waste, you have to do it fundamentally differently.

First, Germany needs to stop dirty plastic trade to Southeast Asia. How is it possible that more plastic waste goes to Malaysia than to the Netherlands or the Czech Republic, even though there are recycling systems in place? However, in the long run, exporting waste to neighboring countries is also out of the question. Every EU country has to recycle its waste where it comes from: with better recycling facilities and a closed system that lives up to its name and cannot boast of quotas that are beautified by waste exports.

The ultimate goal is to avoid plastic waste

But it would be a mistake to hold only the industry accountable. Because even the best recycling facilities and the highest recycling rates cannot contribute to a real solution to the problem: waste avoidance.

It needs a fundamental shift in consciousness. Millions of people in this country have become accustomed to consumption that completely ignores the ecological consequences. After all, it’s so convenient: individually wrapped sweets that do not stick together in a purse; shrink-wrapped steak that lasts a few days longer than the delicatessen; already portioned yoghurts in packs of four with a practical cardboard sleeve. People just don’t see the need for economical packaging anymore.

But what every customer should remember: every time he makes a purchase decision, he makes a different choice: for his own fleeting good and against the environment. Because with thoughtless consumption, the amount of waste also increases.

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