Recycling or composting? The comparison
Better recycling of packaging waste - but how?
Around 3 billion tons - that's how much waste is generated in the countries of the European Union every year. For air, groundwater, grounds and the climate in general, these quantities are an enormous burden. In Germany, around 50 million tons of municipal waste are generated each year - in other words, everything from household waste to bulky waste, biowaste to waste for separate collection. The target is therefore clear: the volume of waste must be reduced. A central approach to solving this problem: better recycling. Nevertheless, the question remains: Which methods are best suited for this task? In any case, there are many possibilities, and in addition to recycling, composting is playing an increasingly important role. For packaging products in particular, it is seen as an alternative to conventional recycling methods.
In fact, it is not just the sheer volume of waste that makes recycling such an urgent task. There are many good reasons for a functioning, efficient circular economy:
- More recycling means less waste in landfills. This in turn reduces the burden on the environment: fewer pollutants are released into the soil and fewer climate-damaging gases are produced when waste decomposes.
- The lower energy requirement for separating, processing and recycling waste has a positive effect on the CO2 balance.
- High-quality recyclates help to reduce the consumption of raw materials for new products - after all, these are not available in unlimited quantities. But recycling is by far not the only way to ensure less waste in the future. Increasingly, people are also looking for biological alternatives, for example to convert packaging waste into valuable resources. Particularly popular in this respect is the option of simply composting packaging. But how good is this option really?
Avoiding waste, conserving resources, protecting the climate and the environment: Recycling can definitely contribute to this, but the question is: How useful and efficient is it really?
- Recyclable materials, for example, must be collected separately from other waste after use.
- In addition to waste separation in households, additional processes are also needed in recycling plants, for example to be able to separate different plastics from one another.
- Different materials can be recycled to different degrees. More complex processes may therefore be necessary.
Demand is rising continuously, especially in the area of sustainable packaging. That's why consumers are also finding more and more compostable packaging solutions. After all, what could be more sustainable than turning packaging waste into valuable compost for plants?
Not all composting is the same
Even when they are thrown away in the recycling garbage can, there is generally no additional benefit. On the contrary: because they are usually not suitable for another form of recycling, compostable plastics are currently still largely incinerated - as, incidentally, is a not insignificant proportion of all plastic packaging produced (the rate is around 50 percent).
Despite the weaknesses, recycling and composting are important ways to avoid waste in the future and conserve resources. Within the EU, for example, there are calls for higher recycling rates, which have already been included in the Packaging Act in Germany. In addition, there should also be requirements for the use of recyclates in production. In both cases, it is important not to lose sight of the added value of the resulting products: Recycling must be about conserving raw materials for the circular economy - in high quality. This applies in the same way to composting. Even if the compostable packaging available to date is not yet suitable as a high-quality fertilizer, there is still enough organic waste to fulfill this purpose very well. In this way, both concepts can play their part in reducing waste volumes and improving environmental and climate protection.