Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety recently announced a five-point plan to reduce the nation’s plastic waste.
Svenja Schulze, the Environment Minister, said in a statement, “We produce far too much in our consumer and throwaway society.” She added, “With these measures, we are reversing the trend in the use of plastics.”
Calling single-use plastic a “global issue,” the ministry added that it supports the proposed European-wide prohibition of such items.
In the meantime, Germany is looking to combat the nation’s plastic waste at the source. The ministry wants to help consumers avoid excess packaging and products, such as in fruit and vegetable aisles. She gave the example of a banana with “its own biodegradable packaging,” its skin. “That will have to suffice in future,” she said. The ministry suggests that plastic packaging should be replaced with adhesive labels.
Beyond supermarket aisles, the ministry suggested improving the availability of drinkable tap water and removing microplastics in cosmetic products in the next two years. New licensing rules will also prompt companies to invest in eco-friendly packaging; the most environmentally-damaging products will incur greater fees.
To address “non-preventable” plastic waste, Germany will make better use of recycled materials. The government plans to recycle 63 percent of total waste within the next four years, up from the current target of 36 percent. To facilitate this, more recycling stations will open. Citizens will also be urged to separate their garbage more carefully, preventing plastic from contaminating organic waste.
Dubbing plastic waste “a global challenge that does not stop at borders,” the ministry is also calling upon nation states to take responsibility for plastic waste in the ocean. Germany itself is increasing its aid donations, with the goal of cleaning up the ten rivers believed to account for 90 percent of the plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. The ministry noted Germany’s €50 million investment in the export of technology designed to remove sea trash.
According to DW, Germany’s BDE Federation for Waste, Water, and Raw Material Management lauded the plan’s general premise, but suggested that additional measures are necessary to create a feasible market for recycled goods.
Plastic is Losing Popularity
Beyond Germany, a global anti-plastic consensus is growing.
The New Zealand government recently committed to phasing out single-use plastic bags, securing the support of 92 percent of Kiwis. Earlier this year, the UK government pledged £61.4 million in a bid to combat ocean plastic pollution, while California became the first U.S. state to ban plastic drinking straws in its eateries.
The anti-plastic movement is influencing major companies, too. Food and drink giants including Danone and Nestlé, KFC, and Starbucks have vowed to ditch or reduce single-use plastic products, as have other significant retailers including IKEA and Adidas.
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