Corona causes packaging consumption to fall slightly in 2020

More waste in households is offset by a reduction in commercial waste.

The Corona pandemic led to a slight decrease in the consumption of packaging in Germany in 2020. This is the first decrease since 2009. In total, 18.8 million tons of packaging waste were generated in 2020, which is 0.7 percent less than in 2019. This corresponds to a decrease of 1.7 kg per per capita to an average of 225.8 kg of packaging waste. Private end users accounted for 46 percent of the total, i.e. more than 8.7 million tons or 104.9 kg per year. There was also an increase of 1.6 percent compared to the previous year. Dirk Messner, President of UBA: “Corona had an overall lowering effect on our packaging consumption. However, there is a concern that this will not last long, similar to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the clear goal of reducing packaging consumption in Germany applies in absolute terms still. This is possible with reusable packaging in other areas and with smaller and lighter packaging. If packaging cannot be avoided, it should be easy to recycle.”

In private households, the corona pandemic led to a higher consumption of packaging, as more was consumed at home. This includes shipping packaging or food packaging. The trend towards DIY is also reflected in packaging consumption. The previously declining consumption of tin rose by 7.3 percent in 2020. In tin z. B. paint, varnish or glaze is sold.

Plastic packaging was used more collectively again. After 2019, the first year of declining consumption, consumption rose again in 2020, by 1.2 percent to 3.2 million tons. Despite the shutdown and the partial production stoppage, the use of plastic packaging increased in industry and commerce as well as in private households. As a result of the shutdown and ceased production, there were very sharp falls, i.a. B. in canteens, gastronomy or in the food trade. However, significantly more was consumed in households, e.g. B. for food packaging, for bottles for disinfectants and cleaning agents or, for example, paint buckets.

In the commercial sector overall, there has been a marked decrease in packaging consumption. This is clearly seen in the consumption of steel packaging, such as steel drums, steel pallets or steel belts. Here consumption fell by ten percent. There is a similar situation with wooden packaging such as pallets or boxes. Here, consumption fell by 6.6 percent.

The recycling rates could be increased for all materials. The Packaging Act’s strong recycling quotas are increasingly leading to improvements in sorting and recycling. Of the total amount of packaging waste, 68.2 percent was directed into the final recycling process, the rest was largely used to generate energy. The recycling percentages for the individual materials were as follows:

  • Glass 79.7%
  • Paper, cardboard 84.2%
  • Ferrous metals 87.5%
  • Aluminum 62.1%
  • Plastic 46.2%
  • wood 32.6%

Due to a new measurement method, these rates are no longer comparable to the rates before 2019.

More info
The following packaging is included in the total consumption: sales, secondary, transport, recycled packaging, packaging of hazardous materials and disposable components of recycled packaging. The stated recycling quotas for the total amount refer to all packaging waste generated in Germany that has been recycled in Germany or in another country. A distinction must be made between the quotas laid down in the Packaging Act, which the dual arrangements must achieve as a minimum for the packaging subject to participation. This is the sales and outer packaging filled with goods that typically accumulate as waste after use by private end consumers. These packaging law recycling quotas are not set in relation to the amount of packaging waste, but in relation to the quantities involved and the amount of light packaging collected. Information on the fulfillment of these quotas will be published separately at a later date.

The used quota interface “supply to final recycling process”, where the recycling quotas for Germany are collected, is new. It replaces the old interface “supply to the first recycling process” of the previous recycling quotas. From reporting year 2020, the new quota interface is binding. This means that the measurement points remain the same, but material loss up to the quota interface is mathematically subtracted from the recycling quota. As a result, recycling rates are lower than calculated using the old method.

This procedure was already carried out in Germany for the figures for 2019. Increases in recycling rates can be seen for all materials. The accuracy of the values ​​at the new quota interface may deteriorate somewhat in the first few years. However, if you compare the values ​​at the old quota interface (input in the first recycling plant), mechanical recycling has reached a new high of 73.7% (2019 71.0%).

More about packaging. Publication: Occurrence and recycling of packaging waste in Germany in 2020

Source: Federal Environment Agency

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