How to improve the use of recycled materials in Germany

Cover TAB-Fokus no. 44: Strategies and instruments for improving the use of recycled materials
TAB-Fokus no. 44: Strategies and instruments for improving the use of recycled materials

Only a small part of the German economy's demand for raw materials is covered by recycled materials. Using plastic packaging, electrical appliances and building materials as examples, the TAB report highlights the requirements for increased use of recycled materials and identifies policy options. 

The more efficient use of resources and energy has become a major task fo modern societies in view of the increasing quantities of waste and the high consumption of raw materials. Closing material cycles is an important goal. Materials extracted from nature should be kept in the economic cycle for longer and primary raw materials should be replaced by secondary raw materials wherever possible. The improved use of recycled materials is an important step on the way to a circular economy and offers both environmental and economic potential – in addition to a more careful use of natural resources, it also contributes to securing Germany's supply of raw materials.

Despite an efficient waste management system, only a small proportion of Germany's raw material needs are covered by recycled materials. In order to improve the situation, adjustments must be made along the entire product value-added-chain – from recyclable product design, the collection of waste by type, technically high-quality recovery of recyclable materials to fair market conditions for the use of secondary raw materials. One challenge is that measures for the recovery and use of recyclates need to be tailored to the different waste streams.The chances of success for the recovery and use of recycled materials strongly depend on the material-specific properties of the respective waste stream and the resulting technical requirements for recycling processes, but also on the applicable legal and economic framework conditions.

In order to differentiate the requirements for an improved use of recycled materials, three different product and waste areas were analysed in TAB Working Report No. 207: plastic packaging, electrical and electronic waste and mineral construction and demolition waste. After taking stock of the legal and economic framework conditions that are decisive for the production and marketing of recyclates, policy instruments for improving the use of recycled materials are systematised and discussed across the board.

A well-coordinated policy mix of regulatory, economic and co-operative instruments that specifically addresses the existing barriers to the use of recycled materials proves to be particularly effective. Further key findings are presented on the project page and in the four-page policy brief TAB-Fokus no. 44 in English


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