Plastikmüll weltweit eindämmen

That is the goal of the three-day Conference on the Environment (UNEA) held in Paris at the end of May 2023. Or more precisely, it is the goal of a series of environmental conferences that have been meeting since 2014 and were mandated by 175 UN member states in Nairobi in 2022 to negotiate an international plastics agreement. A conclusion is planned for 2024. A first draft has now been announced for November 2023.

300 million tonnes of plastic waste per year

The annual global production of plastics is currently 400 million tonnes and rising. According to a Report of the European Commission from the year 2022, 300 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated annually. Of these 300 million tonnes, a 2022 publication will OECD study According to the report, about 41 per cent of plastic waste is either incinerated or disposed of illegally. This compares to only 9 per cent of plastic waste that is actually recycled - including downcycling. Our material CERAMIN impressively shows how a Upcycling can function. Of course, this does not apply to all plastics - especially not to harmful PVC.

Of course, legally or illegally dumped plastic eventually decomposes. But that doesn't mean it vanishes into thin air, but breaks down into microplastics. Microplastic that ends up, for example, in the oceans, then in marine animals and ultimately in our food. Microplastics represent a large part of the cautiously estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic waste currently in the world's oceans. Waste avoidance is therefore one of our central concerns, which is why CERAMIN wall and floor coverings can be 100 percent recycled.

Die Bedeutung eines internationalen Plastikabkommens

Existing international agreements concerning waste in general already exist, such as the Basel Convention However, this is "only" about a controlled regulation of the export of hazardous waste, not a general stop.
How ineffective this is has become particularly drastic in recent years. By 2018, one WWF Report of 2020, 85 per cent of all plastic waste exports from Europe will go to China. There is now a corresponding import ban there. Since then, this share has been distributed to several countries in Southeast Asia. These include above all countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, which are structurally overburdened with this and cannot - for the most part - dispose of their waste properly. 

Whether and to what extent environmental conferences like the one in Paris will actually be able to effectively curb plastic waste is completely open. Among the 175 states discussing in Paris, a so-called high-ambition coalition of 50 countries (including the EU and Japan) is opposed by states such as China, the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia, which reject waste prevention and only want to go about recycling and waste management, but not prevention. This is understandable when you consider that in 2016, for example, about 8 per cent of global oil production was used to make plastic.

Only an international agreement to end waste exports would enable countries to legislate and enforce that plastic producers are held accountable for the entire life cycle of their products - from production to recycling or disposal. We have done this with the Joint Venture HC Plastics is on its way. Here, plastic waste from polypropylene (PP for short) is recycled into the secondary raw material that is so important for us, which is then fed into our CERAMIN wall and floor coverings.

In a kind of preliminary stage of an international export ban, the EU Parliament demanded in January 2023 in a Votethat exports of plastic waste should be banned at least to non-OECD countries and that shipments to OECD countries (34 member states in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) should be stopped within four years.

Recycling: Potentials and limits of the circular economy

Germany is one of the world's most important countries, with an estimated 12 percent share the world's third largest exporter of plastic waste. Most of this is commercial waste (e.g. production waste), the recycling of which is not economically viable in this country. However, according to the WWF these exports will be reduced from approximately 1 million tonnes (2019) to 766,200 tonnes in 2021. 

In a European comparison, Germany could be in a worse position when it comes to plastics recycling. The EU has binding Recycling rates Germany is in the middle of the field here and has a good chance of meeting these quotas.

Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act

Since 2012, Germany has had the Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act (KrWG). In 2020, it underwent another extensive amendment. A central part of the amendment deals with a "Duty of care" of the companies that produce plastic products. Essentially, this is about maintaining the usability of the product. Operational and organisational precautions must be taken for this purpose (e.g. careful handling, transport, storage, sale before expiry of shelf life, reduced sale through other distribution channels, donation of the product)". However, even then it is only a "latent basic obligation" with considerable room for interpretation, at least from a layman's point of view. It should also be noted: "The latent basic duty also induces the parties concerned to make voluntary commitments". It is debatable how sustainable "inducements to self-commitment" are. How we stand on this, among other things, we have discussed in our Sustainability Report set out. The careful use of resources, continuous improvement of the life cycles of our products and complete recyclability have been our top priorities for generations.

The CERAMIN model: recycling to avoid plastic waste

We are convinced that with our company we are already much further along the path to the complete avoidance of plastic waste. Not only driven by a sense of responsibility for nature and health, but also by the fact that our industry has long been dominated by plastics, which have been proven to be particularly harmful.

For example, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) was considered the ideal plastic for flooring for decades. Cheap, waterproof, durable and reasonably robust. Nevertheless, PVC products consist of between 8 and 30 per cent plasticisers, which are extremely harmful to health. Phthalates. By far the most commonly used phthalates are DINP, DEHP, DBP and BBP. All of them are on the official list of hazardous substances. It is not without reason that a general PVC ban has been on the European agenda for years and is now finally emerging.

Deswegen enthalten unsere Produkte aus dem im eigenen Haus entwickelten und patentierten Werkstoff CERAMIN keine Phthalate und keine Weichmacher. CERAMIN besteht mehrheitlich aus natürlichem mineralischem Füllstoff und Polyolefinen, in der Hauptsache Polypropylen (PP). Bereits heute beträgt der Rezyklatanteil in CERAMIN bereits mehr als 60 Prozent aus Rezyklaten. Durch den Einsatz von Rezyklaten (130.000 Tonnen jährlich) spart die Classen-Gruppe Jahr für Jahr mehr als 30.000 Tonnen CO2. CERAMIN ist ohne Qualitätsminderung recycelbar. In der Konsequenz bedeutet das auch, dass bei der Herstellung kein Öl gebraucht wird.

Conclusion

In terms of our responsibility as manufacturers, we have high hopes for an international plastic waste agreement through environmental conferences such as the current one in Paris. 

But our own goals are much more far-reaching. Measures such as a global export ban on plastic waste would not affect us at all. 

  • 100 percent free of PVC and hazardous plasticisers - check 
  • 100 percent made in Germany - check 
  • 100 percent recyclable - check 
  • 100 percent quality even after recycling - check

CERAMIN is our model for a self-contained, functioning circular economy that really helps to curb plastic waste in a sustainable way.  

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