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The fight against plastic waste

We explain how Germany and the other EU countries plan to reduce the enormous quantity of waste.

Kim Berg, 01.01.2023
  Since 2022, certain single-use plastic bags have been banned in the EU.
Since 2022, certain single-use plastic bags have been banned in the EU. © AdobeStock

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste are produced every year. For 2017, a study has revealed precise and frightening figures: in that year, Germany produced 346,831 tonnes of waste from disposable tableware and to-go packaging alone. Every hour, Germans consumed 320,000 disposable cups for hot drinks – and these accounted for only one fifth of the total waste from disposable products.

This waste often ends up in the sea. Around 50 per cent of the waste collected from EU beaches consists of disposable products. The fight against global plastic waste is therefore one of the German government's central concerns. Last year, an important breakthrough was achieved at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA): a legally binding agreement on the environmentally sound use of plastic is to be concluded by 2024. Further steps must be taken in 2023.

An end to single-use plastic

As early as 3 July 2021, disposable plastic cutlery, crockery, drinking straws, stirring sticks, cotton buds and balloon wands will no longer be allowed to be produced within the EU. The same applies to to-go beverage cups, fast food packaging and disposable food containers made of polystyrene.

In 2022, disposable carrier bags were on the deletion list. Certain plastic bags are no longer allowed to cross European shop counters. Since then, there has also been a mandatory deposit on disposable drinks bottles, which will also be levied on plastic bottles of milk drinks beginning in 2024.

This year the regulations go further: beginning in 2023, caterers, delivery services and restaurants must also make their contribution to waste prevention. They must now offer reusable containers as an alternative to single-use plastic for to-go food.

Repairing instead of throwing away

In addition to the ban on single-use plastic, recycling and reusable packaging are also playing an increasingly important role. Since the Packaging Act of 2021 came into force, around 50 per cent more plastic packaging is being recycled. Beginning in 2025, disposable beverage bottles must also be made from at least 25 percent recycled plastic.

In 2022, the EU decided that all EU citizens have a "right to repair". The law is intended to make goods more durable and repairable. After all, 77 per cent of EU citizens would rather have their appliances repaired than replaced. And that makes sense, too. Because in 2019, for example, more than 53 million tonnes of e-waste were thrown away worldwide.


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