Material Flow and Waste Management

According to the waste hierarchy of the Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz (KrWG), waste prevention has the highest priority in Germany. This is followed by re-use and recycling. With packaging, however, a contrary trend is emerging in Germany. The amount of packaging waste for disposal is steadily increasing. The market share of re-usable (household) packaging is falling and nearly half of plastic packaging waste is being incinerated. Here, the design of packaging plays a decisive role in enabling the recirculation.

Concepts such as zero waste shops are the first milestones. However, disposal of packaging in a private final consumption contexts only accounts for just under half of the packaging quantities incurred.

For this reason, this research field deals with the following questions:

  • Which packaging strategies, business models and (alternative) product service systems lead to an overall reduction of material and waste streams over the entire value chain?
  • Which design requirements/ evaluation parameters arise i.a. from current waste management in order to ensure the recirculation of materials even after the use phase (for example through reusability and recyclability)?

For this, among other tings, a material flow analysis (MFA) is carried out using the example of selected products, focusing on the quantities and routes of product-related material/ waste streams. This allows both to represent the actual state and to identify hot spots as well as efficiency measures through simulations. Also, conflicts of objectives are to be uncovered. It is considered, whether optimizations / savings of packaging along the supply chain lead to increased product waste (for example in the case of food) or impair recyclability.

Sarah Julie Otto, M.SC.
Technische Universität Berlin, Institut für Technischen Umweltschutz
Fachgebiet Kreislaufwirtschaft und Recyclingtechnologie

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