Germans produce more packaging waste than ever before

Per capita, Germans throw 226.5 kilograms of packaging away each year - a record high. A new report looks at the reasons behind the rise.

Germans produce more packaging waste than ever before
Rubbish bags hanging on a street in Berlin. Photo: DPA

The volume of packaging waste in Germany rose to a record high in 2017.

According to a new report by the Federal Environment Agency (Das Umweltbundesamt, or UBA), 18.7 million tonnes were generated that year – 226.5 kilograms per person, an increase of three percent over the previous year.

READ ALSO: Germany accumulates more packaging waste per capita than any country in the EU

Private consumers constituted 47 percent of the waste, or 107 kilograms per capita. 

The UBA report, titled “The emergence and recycling of packaging in Germany” was published at the start of the “European Week for Waste Avoidance” on November 16th.  

Graph prepared for The Local by Statista

The paper cited the growing popularity of online shopping and increasingly convenient take-away dining as the main culprits behind the increase in waste. 

Take-out aficionados are also more inclined to purchase small portions, leading to more packaging consumption, it added.

“We consume far too much packaging,” said UBA President Maria Krautzberger. “This is bad for the environment and for the consumption of raw materials. Waste should be avoided as early as possible in the production phase.”

“Unnecessary and unnecessarily material-intensive packaging should therefore be avoided,” she said.

Much more reusable packaging is needed, added Krautzberger, and not just for mineral water and beer. 

“You can also take your coffee with you in returnable cups, and those who take their food with them should also be able to do so in returnable containers,” Krautzberger said.

Germany has already proposed several plans to cut pack on packaging waste.

In May this year, the UBA proposed surcharges of about 20 cents per take-away coffee cup and 10 cents per lid to make disposable cups more expensive than reusable alternatives.

READ ALSO: Why your takeaway coffee could soon cost more in Germany

Smaller programs have also began turning waste into fuel, at a rate of up to 250 kilograms per day. Other initiatives are aimed at improving Germany's recycling system, as reportedly up to 60 percent of plastic waste ends up in the wrong bin.

Germany still recycles a lot of waste, or just under 70 percent, the UBA stated in its report.

Steel is recycled at 92.2 percent, paper and cardboard at 87.6 percent and glass at 84.4 percent. Plastic packaging waste is recycled at 49.7 percent, and wood at 25.8 percent.

The figures for the amount of packaging waste in 2018 will not be published until next year.

READ ALSO: Germany wastes 1.7 million tons of bread per year



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Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.


On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.