RECYCLING & DISPOSAL

What is the best way to dispose of Bionatic (organic) disposable packaging after use? What does it mean when articles are certified compostable? Does bioplastics actually decompose in nature without being harmful? How is the Dual System settled? We can easily understand these considerations and have therefore compiled some information on the subject of disposal. We will of course be happy to answer any further questions on these topics for you.

Used packaging: Residual waste or recycling?

Even if it sounds strange at first, our answer is: both are possible. The recovery of recycling waste (yellow bag, yellow bin or collection container for packaging) in Germany, is regulated by the Dual System. The companies in the recycling industry take care of the collection, sorting and material-optimised recycling of sales and disposable packaging.

However, in reality not everything that is correctly disposed of in the recycling waste is recycled. In fact, a lot of the recycled waste is pressed into waste pellets, which are used as fuel for industry, for example. In the end, a large proportion of the recycled waste is thus combusted, as is the waste that is disposed of with the residual waste. Currently, the thermal recycling of articles made from plant-based raw materials is the most ecologically sound solution.

As a result, they are also used for energy generation and reduce the fossil greenhouse gas share that is produced during combustion. When our packaging is combusted, only that part of CO2 is released into the atmosphere that the plant has absorbed from the atmosphere during its growth process.

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Is bioplastics packaging recyclable?

Yes, bioplastics like PLA are completely recyclable. A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging shows that they can be separated from petroleum-based plastics in the sorting process. However, the quantities of disposed bioplastics are currently still too small to make it economically viable to separate them according to type. 

According to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, around 2.6 million tonnes of conventional plastic packaging are consumed in Germany every year. In contrast, only around 0.3-0.5 percent of all packaging is made from or with bio-based plastics. However, if the volume of bioplastics increases in the future, the point will eventually be reached where the separation of bioplastics will also become more interesting for the disposal and recycling industry. Until then, bioplastics will also be most sensibly thermally recycled.

Is bioplastics really biodegradable?

Yes, in nature, bio-based plastics such as polylactic acid (PLA) compost completely within very short periods of time compared to petroleum-based plastics. Apart from the natural organic basic substances, no toxic residues such as inorganic compounds, chlorine or hydrocarbon compounds remain. Why we nevertheless advise against disposal via organic waste is explained in the next paragraph.

Does compostable packaging belong into the organic waste bin?

In our article descriptions, the bio-icon for DIN13432 appears many times. This means that the article is certified compostable and can be decomposed within 90 days in an industrial composting plant into defined residual components. However, many composting plants work in a shorter, sometimes only six-week rhythm. As a result, biowaste only has half the time to decompose into its components and its fragments are still too large for recycling. Due to the comparatively small amount of completely compostable packaging and disposable tableware, separate sorting and delivering to municipal composting plants is neither ecologically nor economically sensible. Even if at first glance composting appears to be the best recycling method because natural elements are transformed back into nature, it is currently not the most sensible solution. This is because composting in an industrial plant also requires energy and the entire process consumes resources.

For these reasons, we also recommend these packagings to be disposed of with the recycling waste and with subsequent thermal recycling.

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A few words regarding the Dual System

The Dual System consists of a number of companies which are paid by the distributor of sales and disposable packaging for its proper disposal or recycling. The companies that place the packaging on the market are those that deliver the filled packaging to the customer. The disposal fees to be paid depend on the type of material and the weight of the packaging. The recycling industry is profit-oriented and packaging recycling in Germany still focuses on mineral-oil-based plastics, which are still produced in large and increasing quantities. It is therefore obvious that private and municipal disposal and recycling companies still have to adjust to bio-based packaging and plastics. This is a process which gained momentum in 2009 with the amendment of the Packaging Ordinance, but which has not yet been completed in terms of implementation. If the quantities of biobased plastics in the material flow increase, the economic efficiency of recycling and the recovery chain for bioplastics will also develop positively.

How can distributors settle accounts with the "Dual System"?

We are happy to support our customers as the distributor of greenbox packaging in settling accounts with the dual system. On request, we can settle the disposal fees directly with our partner Interseroh.

Further information

If you would like more information on this topic, you will find an interesting question and answer database of DSD GmbH (Grüne Punkt). Interseroh is one of the partners of the dual system.

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