From a throwaway society to a sustainable circular economy

Throwing away was yesterday. The future is where all the action will be!

Scarce resources and growing mountains of waste that devour valuable raw materials without being used. We can’t go on like this.

And we don’t intend to. More sustainability is required and will be implemented. The EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan sets targets for achieving resource-efficient economic activity by 2050.

Now it is up to all of us – from industry and consumers to policymakers and public administrators.

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy aims to use products and raw materials for as long as possible.

Waste should be avoided by reusing and repairing existing products. If this is not possible, they are broken down into their original raw materials.

These can then be recycled and new products created.

How does a circular economy work?

In a circular economy, products are used and repaired for as long as possible. After their disposal, new raw materials are created from the waste in order to produce new products – as often as is technically possible and reasonable.

Nature shows us how: waste is a foreign word to her, she uses raw materials again and again. Plants decompose to form humus. New plants draw their nutrients from it to grow. The cycle of growth and recycling begins anew.

Let’s take this as an example, because the advantages of a functioning circular economy are obvious:

  • Less unnecessary waste, while at the same time the impact on our environment is reduced.
  • The maximum reuse of raw materials conserves our natural resources.

Plastics – processing – use – recycling – reuse

A circular economy is the foundation for the sustainable and climate-neutral use of plastics. In the future, we will need plastics more than ever, for example, for the safe supply of food or in medicine, as well as for climate protection and energy transition. After all, they make a significant contribution not only to achieving the United Nations’ sustainability goals, but also to implementing the EU Commission’s Green Deal.

This requires a circular economy with resource-saving production that increasingly relies on recycled secondary raw materials. For this reason, products made of plastic must be designed for easy recycling from the very beginning. If private and commercial consumers separate their waste well, nothing stands in the way of recycling. And the waste can be processed as a recycled raw material into new products.

How does the industry plan to close the loop?

The plastics industry is changing. Together, all companies in the plastics industry and their customers want to use fewer resources and avoid environmental pollution. In addition to new raw materials for plastics production, such as bio-based materials or CO2, plastics should be recycled as completely as possible. This works well with PET bottles, but by no means everywhere.

The industry and many initiatives are working hard to find sustainable solutions, usually in close cooperation with users, politicians and NGOs. There are already a number of initiatives: ‘Eco Design’ for sustainable product design, research partnerships for chemical recycling, the ‘Zero Granulate Loss’ alliance for the prevention of environmental pollution or the ‘ERDE’ initiative for the recycling of agricultural films. And more are coming all the time.

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