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Recycling of plastics in Germany

Paper presented at Third International Conference and Bi-Annual Meeting on "Challenges for Technology Assessment & Technology Forecasting: Equity, Energy and Environment". organized by International Association of Technology Assessment and Forecasting Institutions IATAFI, New Dehli, 17.-19.11.1998
: Patel, M.; Thienen, N. von
: Fraunhofer-Institut für Systemtechnik und Innovationsforschung -ISI-, Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe: ISI, 1998, 16 S.
Fraunhofer ISI ()

This article deals with the waste management of post-consumer plastics in Germany and its potential to save fossil fuels and to reduce CO2 emissions. Since most experience is available for packaging, the paper first gives an overview of the legislative background and the material flows for this sector. Then recycling and recovery processes for plastics waste from all sectors are assessed in terms of their contribution to energy saving and CO2-abatement. Practically all the options studies show a better performance than waste treatment in an average incinerator which has been chosen as the reference case. High ecological benefits can be achieved by mechanical recycling if virging polymers are substituted. The paper then presents different scenarios for managing plastic waste in Germany in 1995: Considerable savings can be made by strongly enhancing the efficiency of waste incinerators. Under these conditions the distribution of plastics waste among mechanical recycling, feedstock recycling and energy recovery 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 CO2 representing 13 % of the sector' emissions. The assessment does not support a general recommendation of energy recovery due to the large difference between the German average and the best available municipal waste-to-energy facilities and also due to new technological developments in the field of mechanical recycling.