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Report for Germany

The Ukraine/Russia crisis means energy supply in many European countries is in danger. The German plastics industry would be severely affected by an embargo because imported gas is an important component in the manufacture of plastics precursors. Supply of power is very strained at present and, following the announcement of an emergency plan by Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck, companies have been trying to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Regarding the procurement of materials in the plastics industry, the supply situation has continued to ease, although further delivery bottlenecks are expected until the spring of 2023. The market remains unperturbed by recessionary fears: only the summer break has slowed the price increase in August and demand for recycling materials continues unabated, such that regranulators can usually raise their prices and pass on almost all of the increases in energy and raw material costs.

The amount of plastic waste produced worldwide could almost triple by 2060 but, at present, half of it goes to landfill and less than a fifth is recycled, according to the latest study by the OECD (www.oecd.org). If you want a world without plastic, the same measures must be taken worldwide. The study proposes the following concrete policy measures that can be implemented throughout the lifecycle of plastics: taxation of plastics, including plastic packaging; incentives to recycle and repair plastic items; improvement of the waste management structure; increase in waste collection rates; and targets for the proportion of recyclates in new plastic products.

All efforts must be geared towards a sustainable Circular Economy. Plastics recycling must be specifically promoted by the state. There is a lot of talk about plastic waste and recycling, but in practice there is still a need for action as the potential of the plastics recycling market has so far been underused. Recyclates often cannot assert themselves in terms of price even though using them rather than new materials saves on crude oil and energy consumption, thus contributing to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

The discrepancy between supply and demand complicates the situation. New investments are made only hesitantly or sometimes not at all, with plastics processors complaining about the lack of volumes and qualities of recyclate.

Even ahead of recycling, we have to think about the reusability of products. In terms of design for recycling, assessment of the recyclability of products must be standardized, with minimum standards set. In addition, separate collection needs to be extended to all types of plastics.