A selection of business opportunities at a glance: Circular fashion
With an estimated turnover of EUR 23.7 billion in 2019, Germany is home to one of the largest clothing markets in Europe (Statista 2020). But let’s take a look into the more distant future: What will fashion look like in 2050? “Environmentally friendly, resource-saving, and recyclable”, is what the Confederation of the German Textile and Fashion Industry says. However, the development of the market for circular fashion and sustainable textiles suggests that the future is now:
sustainability is important or even very important when making a purchasing decision. This offers new opportunities for the development, production, and sale of sustainable textiles and clothing recycling in Germany.
A selection of business opportunities at a glance: Packaging recycling
Demographic changes and new lifestyles, such as the increase of one- or two-person households, an ageing society, a growing tendency to eat out and the rise of mail-order businesses and e-commerce have led to a constant increase in packaging waste in Germany. While in 1991, packaging waste totaled 15.6 million tons and even decreased for some time after that, it then peaked in 2017 at 18.7 million tons (Federal Environment Agency 2019). Of this, only 69.9% was recycled (Federal Environment Agency 2019). The recently introduced German Packaging Act demands higher recycling quotas for packaging in order to close the gap, thus enhancing the need for new and improved plastic recycling technologies.
The need to improve recycling quotas is especially great for plastics, which represent 17 % of all packaging waste in Germany (Federal Environment Agency 2018). The ban on plastics waste imports to China has increased the need for more and improved recycling of plastics within Germany.
Recovery rates for packaging waste in Germany
Minimum recovery rate as of 2019
Minimum recovery rate as of 2022
Tinplate and ferrous metals
Paper and cardboard
|Source: Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 18/11274 & BMUB|
A selection of business opportunities at a glance: Recycling of construction materials
In 2018, 417 million metric tons of waste was generated in Germany (destatis, 2019). With 228 million metric tons of waste, building and construction materials represent the lion’s share of waste, therefore making it one of the most attractive markets for recycling technologies in Germany.
Within German buildings, 220 million tons of wood, 10.5 billion tons of mineral construction material, and 100 million tons of metal (estimation, Gabriel 2010) are waiting to be extracted and represent a huge potential for reuse and recycling. Innovative solutions and new technologies are therefore needed to meet the pressing demand for construction material recycling in Germany.
A selection of business opportunities at a glance: lithium-ion battery recycling
Although the EV battery recycling market in Germany is not yet mature, the future recycling potential for batteries in Germany and the EU is significant. Germany’s federal government aims to have seven to ten million electric vehicles registered in Germany by 2030. According to studies by Pillot, the lithium-ion battery market should represent 278 GWh/year in 2025. The European Commission is also planning to set binding standards for cell manufacturing – from raw materials and production processes through to cell recycling.
Germany is at the forefront of battery recycling and battery second life research. Prominent German research institutes and universities are involved in end-of-life of lithium-ion battery research projects, mainly within the Horizon 2020 research program framework. Participating institutes include the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, RWTH Aachen, the technical universities of Munich and Freiberg, and the University of Münster.
Some of the research projects have resulted in the establishment of whole recycling plants in Germany. Duesenfeld GmbH, for example, established its plant in Wendeburg from the LithoRec project in 2017. Another pioneer in the battery recycling field is Accurec Recycling GmbH, who started operating from their plant in Krefeld in 2016. This plant is set to be expanded in 2021. Redux Recycling GmbH also has long expertise through its plant in Bremerhaven. Further operations and pilot projects are planned by several German companies and research institutes. Many companies also look at international cooperation projects to set up their recycling processes. Germany, with its great industry footprint and sustainability goals, is therefore an ideal base for companies to develop their technologies and set up recycling plants.