Study

Sustainability assessment of recycling activities

Press release / October 14, 2019

The efficient recycling of recyclable materials can make significant positive contributions by tackling resource use and consequently addressing climate change. This is confirmed by the presented study ‘resources SAVED by recycling’, which was prepared by Fraunhofer UMSICHT on behalf of the ALBA Group. According to the study, the ALBA Group reduced climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions by 4.4 million metric tons in 2018 through recycling 5.6 million metric tons of recyclable materials. This corresponds to the climate protection effect of a mixed forest measuring over 441,000 hectares, equivalent to an area almost twice the size of the Saarland. What’s more, recycling saved 31.9 million metric tons of resources such as ores, coal and wood compared with what would otherwise be derived from primary production.

Study 'resources SAVED by recycling'
© ALBA Group
On behalf of the ALBA Group, Fraunhofer UMSICHT evaluated the recycling activities of the company as part of a study.

“In order to achieve the climate protection targets by 2030, recycling must become an integral part of all economic activities,” says Dr. Axel Schweitzer, CEO of the ALBA Group. “Politicians are still wasting huge potential for reducing the impact on the climate. Recycling makes it much easier and more effective to achieve climate protection than many measures in the climate protection package. We can also count on the support of our citizens because it does not place any financial burden on them. A world without waste is thus always a world with fewer greenhouse gases. That is why we need clear targets for the circular economy: The use of recycled materials must be consistently promoted, for example by introducing further quality standards and by the public sector, as a trailblazer, only purchasing products that contain recycled materials. The German government’s new climate protection package should contain more ambitious targets.”

Assessment by means of Life Cycle Assessment

“Our comprehensive assessment methods makes it possible to precisely quantify the environmental impacts of recycling; this is an important information in view of the current climate protection discussion,” says Dr.-Ing. Markus Hiebel, Head of Sustainability and Resource Management at the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT. The new and further development of processes such as the plastic recycling “Recycled Resource” developed by the ALBA Group has a positive effect. Using high-quality recycled plastics today already reduces climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent compared to using new granulate made from crude oil.

“However, in order to exploit the full potential of recycling raw materials, we must focus even more strongly than before on the design and manufacture of recyclable products and packaging in the future,” stresses Markus Hiebel.

Assessment of recycling activities

With its ‘Made for Recycling’ service – a scientifically sound methodology for assessing recyclability – the environmental service provider Interseroh, a member of the ALBA Group, is already providing companies with targeted support in the sustainable optimization of their packaging. This method was developed by Interseroh in cooperation with the bifa Environmental Institute before being tested by experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT has been investigating how the ALBA Group’s recycling activities affect the climate and natural resources for the past twelve years. The results are published in the brochure ‘resources SAVED by recycling’, which is published annually. Plastics, metals, waste electrical and electronic equipment, wood, paper/card/cardboard, lightweight packaging, and glass material streams were included in the study in 2018.

FUNDING INFORMATION

The study was carried out on behalf of the ALBA Group.