Gruene Flaschen und Metalldosen in einer Recycling Tonne Gruene Flaschen und Metalldosen in einer Recycling Tonne | © GettyImages/spwidoff

Recycling & Waste Management

In 2013, the German waste management and recycling markets totaled approximately EUR 17 billion, representing 17% of the global market volume. The basis for Germany’s leadership in the global recycling industry is the country’s first mover role in waste management law and a business environment that favors innovation and new technologies.


Traction Battery Recycling Market Set to Grow in Germany

Portrait of a beautiful Asian businesswoman smiling. Horizontal shot. Falko_Schappacher_1340x754px | © Johnny Greig 2011

Germany Trade & Invest’s Flérida Regueira Cortizo and Anne Bräutigam recently interviewed Dr. Falko Schappacher, Commercial and Technical Director of Münster Electrochemical Energy Technology (MEET) at the University of Münster to discuss the future market for spent battery recycling in Germany.

Click here for the complete interview


Latest Publication

Fact Sheet - Environmental Technologies in Germany Fact Sheet - Environmental Technologies in Germany | © GTAI

Fact Sheet - Environmental Technologies in Germany

A long tradition in environmental technologies aligned to pioneering environmental policy and a supportive legal framework have helped establish Germany as a leading green economy player and home to one of the most advanced environmental technologies markets worldwide.



KA International - Special Edition 2018 - 2019 KA International - Special Edition 2018 - 2019 | © DWA

KA International Special Edition 2018/19 [pdf]

The Fight Against Climate Change as an Opportunity in Germany? Current Developments and Further Needs where Water is in Excess


by Flérida Regueira Cortizo, Annika Förster, Michael Schnabel and Daniela Vaziri (GTAI - Berlin/Germany)

Waste management, recycling, and the circular economy in Germany

Market Development & Legal Framework

Innovations and new technologies are changing the demand for resources worldwide. In Germany, the energy transition, digitization, and a growing awareness among consumers regarding sustainability have increased the potential for innovative international waste management and recycling companies.

The recycling of wind turbine components and carbon fiber composites, rare earth elements, electronics, electric car batteries, packaging, and circular fashion are just some examples of promising new market niches. Between 2008 and 2015, the German circular economy industry grew by 7.3% annually, and it is estimated that it will grow a further 5.2% per year through to 2025 – exceeding expected global market growth of 4.4% p.a. (BMUB/Roland Berger). With a turnover of more than EUR 39.4 billion (Statista, Eurostat, 2019), the German recycling industry is leading in Europe.

The provisions of the German Waste Management Act (KrWG) are the backbone of Germany’s leading circular economy market. The KrWG enshrines the notion of product responsibility by defining responsibilities along the product life cycle and offering incentives to manufacture durable products. The act’s goal is to turn a waste management culture into a resource management culture, minimizing waste generation and maximizing reuse and recycling.

German Waste Management Act (KrWG)

German Waste Management Act (KrWG)
German Waste Management Act (KrWG) | © UBA, BMUB, Waste Management Act (Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz)

Do you offer an innovative solution for waste management, recycling, or the circular economy?

Contact us to receive more information about market opportunities for your business in Germany and learn how we can support your expansion.

Selection of Business Opportunities

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

Plastic packaging

58%

63%

Aluminium

80%

90%

Tinplate and ferrous metals

80%

90%

Paper and cardboard

85%

90%

Glass

80%

90%

Beverage carton

75%

80%

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.

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