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Recycling of plastics in Germany

: Patel, M.; Thienen, N. von

Chum, H.L. ; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy -ACEEE-:
Industry and Innovation in the 21st Century. Proceedings
Washington, D.C.: ACEEE, 1999
Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Industry <3, 1999, Albany/NY>
Fraunhofer ISI ()

This article deals with the waste management of post-consumer plastics in Germany and its potential to save fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions. Since most of the experience available is for packaging the paper first gives an outline of the legislative background and the material flows for this sector. The recycling and recovery processes for plastics waste from all sectors are then assessed in terms of their potential contribution to energy saving and CO2 abatement. Practically all the opinions studied show better performance regarding these two aspects than waste treatment in an average incinerator Ö (which has been chosen as the reference case). High ecological benefits can be achieved by mechanical recycling if virgin polymers are substituted. The cost effectiveness of reducing energy use and CO2emissions is determined for a number of technologies. There is large scope to reduce the costs, with an estimated overall saving potential of 50 % within one to two decades. The paper then presents scenario projections which are based on the assumption that the total plastics waste in Germany in 1995 is treated in processes which will be available by 2005; considerable savings can be made by moving away from the business as usual path to highly efficient waste incinerators Ö (advanced waste-to-energy facilities). Under these conditions the distribution of plastics waste among mechanical recycling and deed stock recycling has a comparatively small impact on the overall results. The maximum savings amount to 74 PJ of energy, i. e. 9 % of the chemical sector's energy demand in 1995 and 7.0 Mt. C02, representing 13 % of the sector emissions and 0.8 % of Germany's total CO2 emissions. This shows that plastics waste management offers some scope for reducing environmental burdens.