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German and Swiss Waste

Both Germany and Switzerland run model waste management systems. Germany has the stated goal of eliminating 'waste of waste'. Where materials can be reused, recycled or energy recovered from waste, policies, laws and standards are in place to ensure this is done. It demonstrates that good waste management is also good economics!

Germany has among the highest rates of recycling in the world. In 2013, Germany recycled 69% of its waste for its material value, and a further 10% was used to generate electricity or biofuel, which exceeds the EU target of 50% by 2020.

The German Life Cycle Law (KrWG) is the central federal law governing German waste management. The aim of the law is "to promote the management of the life cycle of materials, to conserve natural resources, and to protect people and the environment during the creation and handling of wastes, and in particular the recycling and other recovery of usable materials from wastes".

The recovery of value from plastic waste is a very important issue in the modern waste management economy. Plastics, as opposed to metal, glass, and paper, is not so easy to recycle. However, the amount of plastic that is consumed every day is growing continuously, And plastic is a very great hazard for the environment, since it does not biodegrade, or does so only after a long time. Of the 11.6 Mt annual plastics production, 42% (5.68 Mt) is recycled as separately collected plastic waste.

The German waste landfill ordinance, which came into force on 1st June 2005, prohibits the deposit into landfill of materials which can be utilised for energy recovery or recycled. Only inert products with a ignition loss of less than 5% by weight may be landfilled.

The rate of recycling, however, seems to have reached a plateau, from 2006 to 2010 there was no increase. The rate of energy recovery through incineration, however, has continued to increase, with an overall 56% increase by 2010 over the 2001 figure. This is an increase from 22% in 2001 to 35% in 2010 of total MSW waste generated.

The success can be attributed to sound policies, at federal and state levels. These include reduction in biodegradable waste being sent to landfill, a ban on untreated waste being landfilled, producer responsibility, and public involvement in efficient and ubiquitous separate collection programmes.

The new recycling bin system has the objective of increasing the segregated collection of plastics by the 7 categories, as well as increased metal and bio-waste separate collection.

German Recycling and Waste Act KrWG

The German Recycling and Waste Act governs the management of waste in Germany, with an emphasis on minimising the need for disposal by landfill.

The German Recycling and Waste Act, 1994 (KrWG PDF 208k), and its 2012 revision, forsees 3 waste disposal paths:

  1. Assumption of responsibility for one's own waste: wherever possible with separation for recycling and pre-treatment. See also Polluter Pays Principle.
  2. Municipal collection, sorting, recycling, management, and disposal in landfill.
  3. Producers' responsibility: manufacturers and operators are obliged to provide for the acceptance of returned packaging and other products, such as electronic scrap.

Swiss consumers use about 85 kg per head of plastic. 40% of this is for packaging and 20% in the construction sector. 15% of un-separated municipal waste is plastic, resulting in an annual 15 kt of plastic waste.

The Swiss Wastes Ordinance, Technischer Verordnung über Abfälle (TVA), requires the separate collection and recycling of waste, where it is technically possible and economically feasible, and where there is less impact on the environment through recycling than other disposal methods. Due to the low influence on the total quantities of municipal waste, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) remains reluctant to introduce the widespread separate collection of plastics.

Swiss Waste Management Law TVA

Technische Verordnung über Abfall Schweiz (TVA) is the Swiss law governing the management of waste.

TVA Technische Verordnung über Abfall Schweiz, 2011.