Recycling is the process by which waste is reused. Waste is turned into secondary raw materials that can be used to manufacture new products. In many cases the quality of the material is lost in the recycling process, but it does not have to be that way!
It is becoming increasingly clear how important the reuse of raw materials is for the protection of the environment and human life. Even major polluters can now see that we cannot continue as before. Our natural resources are limited and raw materials are growing scarce around the world, making the search for alternative sources all the more urgent.
What works well with glass and paper, that is, processing that yields high-quality recycled products, should become a matter of course for plastic in the future. The partners in the Recyclate Initiative from Werner & Mertz are actively engaged in pursuing that goal. The Yellow Bag alone collects some 120,000 tons of plastic waste per year. That's a lot of valuable raw material that can be used again. The means is high-quality recyclates, which can be reused in the manufacture of new products. It is upcycling in the truest sense of the word.
Plastic recycling is not so easy. That's why the highly varied mix of plastic waste from the Yellow Bag has been recycled into materials of low value or processed into plastic items which are unsuitable for recycling after use. Other collected plastic packaging is "thermally recycled", which means it is incinerated to obtain energy. In the end we are left with a waste of valuable crude oil and an unnecessary increase in CO2 emissions.
Within the Recyclate Initiative a technology was developed that makes possible effective recycling of PET plastic waste from the Yellow Bag and the creation of a sustainable material cycle. To that end, the Green Dot provides old plastic from the Yellow Bag and carries out the initial reprocessing steps. The plastic waste is filtered by means of laser spectroscopy in ultra-modern sorting facilities and is readied for high-level recycling without any loss of quality. The initiative guarantees a genuine circular economy in which a new detergent bottle can be made from an old detergent bottle.
The subject of sustainability has long since become established in the minds of consumers. Statistics attest to the public's acceptance of recycling. According to a survey conducted by the opinion research firm Forsa on behalf of the BDE (Bundesverbandes der Deutschen Entsorgungs- Wasser- und Rohstoffwirtschaft e.V), about 80 percent of Germans say recycling is the most important strategic measure in ensuring the long-term supply of raw materials for the national economy. Of those surveyed, 97% said that recycling and the manufacture of secondary raw materials from trash collected in Germany are very important.
If governments provide incentives to make PET recycling economically attractive, what happened with aluminum could achieve the same with plastic in the medium term. Most landfills no longer have a problem with aluminum since word got out that it pays to recycle aluminum cans, for example, and people began looking after that particular resource.