Would you burn money?
Peter Kurth, President of the Federal Association of the German Disposal, Water and Raw Materials Management (BDE) addressed a change of circular economy in the newspaper Welt. The most important argument was left out tough: There is value from waste. A critical response:
Question: Would you burn money?
Lemke: Since China is returning plastic waste to its sender, the German managers of waste incineration plants are happy, they do not have a problem firing them. At least 600.000 tons of plastic waste were shipped to China according to the German authorities. This problem is just the tip of an iceberg in burning money. But policies can be changed by quick industry intervention.
Question: „Waste to Energy“ instead of recycling – why does Germany not have adequate recycling plants?
Lemke: Our industry has not jet understood, what value from waste is possible. In my opinion we could have another economic miracle like in the 1950er years if we took the advantage seriously. We are already able to recycle Tetra-Pack, coffee capsules or Styrofoam to 100 %, like a little start up entrepreneur, the FZ-Recycling GmbH, does it. Technically we can do much more. And just imagine Africa sent back to us all of the electronic waste that we’re dumping there. Isn’t it time for using recycling techniques that can bring back 100 % of the material out of an old car? I don’t understand, why the Chinese have not understood what value they are sending back to us. Unfortunately we’re just burning money ourselves, when firing our incineration plants.
Question: Is this dynamic caused by the market or by a lack of technology?
Lemke: Both. The markets for recycling plastics have not been developed properly and so far any reuse hasn’t been „sexy“. The vision of packing food in a material, that does not come from a virgin material is hard to communicate. And technologies to recycle in an intelligent way, meaning recovering 100 % material and upcycle are missing. The quality of recycling material must become better.
Question: How can such materials be pushed?
Lemke: Creating new products needs the knowledge of recycling them. We need eco-design with high quality standards considering the process of recycling and bringing back the material after use. Beauty and quality must be leading our creative performance. People must love the new material and products, then we will have markets and new business-models.