The Best Waste is No Waste
457. Four hundred and fifty-seven kilos.
That's how much trash each individual German citizen generated in 2019. And that only includes the waste that is generated directly at home. Not the waste that is generated indirectly in all value chains. All of this adds up to 38 million tons of waste over the whole year, in Germany alone.
That's about as much as the weight of 540 blue whales 🐋. What can we do? We'll answer that question step by step in our Zero-Waste June. In the coming month, everything will revolve around the topic of zero-waste. We'll give you tips & tricks on how you can make a difference every day, how you can effectively reduce your waste and become a little bit more sustainable every day.
We will talk about the good old plastic bag and how you can get more out of your bag by reusing it. We will also talk about tap water and its potential to save resources. Of course, we will also talk about reusable bottles and their added value for our environment as well as about the beloved To-Go Cup. At the end of the month, we present to you our guide to effective recycling at home.
Garbage as far as the eye can see
We literally live in garbage. Packaging waste can be found in rivers, oceans, on beaches, in forests, just about everywhere. And it's getting more and more every day. The data for 2020 will probably not be pleasing either, considering that unpackaged shopping has even been made more difficult in some cases and additional disposable hygiene products such as mouth masks and the like have been added.
The waste problem is massive. So big, in fact, that many countries are trying to sell their garbage to other countries. According to the motto: Out of sight, out of mind. But garbage does not disappear as easily as we imagine. Because many materials used for packaging are contributors to our climate change.
Why? By the fact that:
⚠️ Resources such as wood and petroleum are consumed,
⚠️ The environment is polluted for the extraction of resources such as aluminum.
⚠️ For production, a lot of energy is needed and CO2 is emitted.
⚠️ New natural areas are cleared for bioplastics and instead of food, the raw materials for bioplastics are used.
⚠️ Plastics remain in nature for a very long time (sometimes over 500 years!), release toxins and thus destroy nature, harm us humans and cause the ecosystem to collapse.
Have you ever been on a carpet full of garbage?
1,000 rivers are responsible for 80% of the garbage in our oceans. There, the trash collects in eddies created by the large currents. NASA once filmed how the so-called garbage whirlpools develop over time and where they are located. Look here.
"1,000 rivers are responsible for 80% of the garbage in our oceans."
What you see on the surface are the tips of the icebergs, because the "garbage patches" extend into the ocean depths. At the top, you can only see the large pieces of garbage. These are crushed by the sun and saltwater so that they sink down until they float as microplastics together with plankton in the water below. It is estimated that there are now over 200 million tons of trash floating in the oceans.
"It is estimated that there are now over 200 million tons of trash floating in the oceans."
Plankton is an important food source for marine animals. Scientists even assume that the amount of microplastic will eventually exceed that of plankton in the sea. So in the future, whales and the like will eat more plastic than food. In addition, toxins attach themselves to plastic and are ingested by marine animals along with the plastic. Even now, many fish are contaminated with environmental toxins and really belong in the hazardous waste bin rather than on our plates.
"Scientists even assume that the amount of microplastic will eventually exceed that of plankton in the sea."
So if we imagine that a lot of packaging is mostly only used once, then its negative impact on us and our environment is enormous and bears no relation to the benefits.
But many things are recycled or can be recycled, right?
Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple, because in fact only a fraction of our packaging waste is actually recycled. Here are a few figures from 2018:
♻️ Steel and aluminum: over 90%
♻️ Paper and cardboard: 88%
♻️ Glass: 83%
♻️ Plastic packaging: 47%
♻️ Wood: 25%
At first glance, that actually looks pretty good. Let's take a closer look. The wood quota is so low because there is no legal quota to be met there so far. Aluminum loses mass when recycled, so a lot of new aluminum has to be added. Plastic recycling has decreased by 2% compared to 2015. Nevertheless, 53% of all plastic packaging is incinerated. This so-called thermal recycling is partly already included in the recycling rate (47%). It is assumed that only about 9% of all plastic packaging is recycled again.
"It is assumed that only about 9% of all plastic packaging is recycled again."
The reason for this is a law that stipulates that recycled plastics no longer meet food hygiene standards. Recycled plastics must therefore no longer come into contact with food. Another reason is the different material combinations and printing inks used for packaging. Plastic cannot be mixed during recycling and must be sorted by type. Material combinations that cannot be separated are therefore simply incinerated. In addition, there are more and more types of plastic that do not yet have a direct identification number and fall under No. 07, for example. They cannot be sorted and are also incinerated. This also includes bioplastics.
We are therefore currently far too lax in our use of resources and should therefore work to reduce packaging of all kinds that cannot be recycled or can only be used once. There is already a small glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Can't we just ban it?
At the beginning of 2019, the new Packaging Act came into force. The law is intended to serve the purpose of reducing packaging waste throughout Germany. Attention, good news in advance: recycling rates have subsequently increased significantly.
What is behind this law?
From July 3, 2021, disposable cutlery, cotton swabs, straws, and stirrers will be banned. The sale of disposable Styrofoam containers and disposable to-go cups will also no longer be allowed. From October 2020, all manufacturers and sellers have to contribute to the cleaning and disposal costs. Before that, it was on the citizens.
"From July 3, 2021, disposable cutlery, cotton swabs, straws, and stirrers will be banned."
Enough of the bad news. Let's take action together. Starting from now, every day.
Our Zero-Waste Challenge
We challenge you. Every month, every week, every day, every moment. We challenge you to rethink your plastic consumption and to live a little bit more sustainably every day, every hour, and every minute. To that end, we will discuss the most important topics in the coming weeks. The next blog post will be about the good old jute bag. After that, we'll talk about tap water, and water bottles, both reusable and disposable. Then we turn to the topic of the To-Go Cup and last but not least we take a look at how to recycle properly.
Stay tuned for more!
In the PLAN3T app, you will find challenges on the topic of Zero-Waste, for which you can now get double Planet Coins for one month. Try your hand at 'Reduce Plastic Waste' and track your success every Sunday. Over the coming weeks, new challenges will be added, which we will take a closer look at in the next blog posts. We hope you have fun trying out the challenges. If you have ideas for future blog posts or further questions, feel free to write to us at email@example.com or contact us via Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.