Action 19: Closing the plastics cycle

We want to achieve intelligent, resource-efficient and energy-efficient use of plastics – among other things through a genuine circular economy.

Where do we stand?

Plastics are an integral part of our daily lives. The versatile properties and cost-effective production of plastics compared to other materials make them an almost irreplaceable material. However, plastics also pollute the environment. This is the reason the German Packaging Act was introduced. It aims to increase the recycling rate for plastic packaging, create a better basis for plastics recycling, and offer new economic recycling potential. This is an important step towards reducing plastic waste in Germany. However, too much plastic waste is produced globally, and too little is recycled. Today, between 4 and 13 million tonnes of plastic waste land in the sea each year worldwide. The aim is to reduce this amount to zero by 2050.

What are the research needs?

To achieve this, innovative technologies and recycling processes and intelligent use concepts are necessary. Our funding therefore goes firstly towards research into economic and social strategies for avoiding and reducing plastics. Secondly, we are funding initiatives for the design of plastic products that are compatible with a circular economy. And thirdly, we are promoting the development of economically viable, digitally based solutions for the intelligent use, collection, sorting and recycling of plastics and their testing on an industrial scale. In doing so, our aim is to always take account of the consumers’ perspective as well as that of the manufacturers – all with the aim of using less plastic, increasing the efficiency of plastic use, and establishing a true recycling economy in the plastics sector.

Implementation steps and milestones

  • In collaboration with the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, we are working on improving the recycling of plastics (five-point plan to reduce plastic and increase recycling; PREVENT Waste Alliance).
  • We are participating in the implementation of the EU Strategy for Plastics, and with our funding for the recycling sector, we are helping to maintain and expand Germany’s leading role in this area.
  • We are committed to greater cooperation with industry, for example in the ‘Alliance to End Plastic Waste’; and, through research and development projects, we are supporting German companies in their efforts to be the leading providers in the field of plastics recycling.
  • From 2021 onwards, we will fund the improved recycling of plastics and strive to achieve the strong participation of companies, as well as large-scale implementation along the plastics value-added chains.
  • Our results on new and digital technologies and pilots for the use, collection, sorting and recycling of plastics will be presented from 2022.

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