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A call for a deposit on plastic cups: NRW Environment Minister: Ban plastic wrapping of mail circulars

A call for a deposit on plastic cups : NRW Environment Minister: Ban plastic wrapping of mail circulars

Germany is the European leader in the use of packaging. The NRW Environmental Minister wants to reduce plastic packaging waste, targeting bulk mailings and coffee-to-go.

NRW Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser (CDU) wants to achieve a considerable reduction in the use of plastic packaging. Especially the direct mail items with discount advertising, which are packed in plastic foil and sent to around 20 million households nationwide every week, are a thorn in her side. "My goal is to ban the plastic wrapping of direct bulk mail items," the CDU politician told our editorial team. The topic has been irritating her for years now. "It’s a case where the world of business must come up with environmentally and consumer-friendly alternatives," the minister challenged.

Furthermore, the use of disposable beverage cups, which often contain plastic, should also be restricted. "There is also an urgent need to change the use of coffee-to-go cups. We need a solution where people have to pay a deposit," said Heinen-Esser.

According to the NRW consumer protection agency, Germany is the European leader in the use of packaging. In 2016, each German produced an average of 221 kilograms of packaging waste. In 2009, the figure was around 180 kilograms. The EU average is just over 150 kilograms per person. Comparable countries such as Italy, France and Great Britain are well below 200 kilograms. Political goals to reduce packaging waste have so far been absent, according to the consumer protection center. For example, the organic cucumber packed in plastic foil or the lavishly packaged skin care cream have been a source of irritation.

According to the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung (GVM) in Germany, which conducts market research on packaging, disposable dinnerware and to-go packaging produced more than 346,000 tons of waste last year. Take-out packaging alone accounted for over 105,000 tons of this waste volume. These disposable products are indisputably one of the causes of high and growing waste volumes. According to calculations by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany), 2886 tons of plastic waste are produced each year for a weekly bulk mail item. "And again and again, the bulk mail items wrapped in film are disposed of intact," according to Umwelthilfe.

The postal service is responsible for the mailings. They are aware of their responsibility towards the environment. However, they apparently do not want to do without the plastic wrapping. "The plastic film, which keeps 'Einkauf aktuell' (shopping ads) free of moisture and dirt in the mailbox every Saturday, has been considerably reduced in its thickness. Today the plastic covering is almost three times thinner than a human hair," says a spokesman for the German postal service. In addition, the plastic film is designed to facilitate recycling, says the spokesman. The minister takes a different view in some respects. "Obviously, plastic wrapping is a simple and cheap solution. But it comes with environmental baggage. Anyone who focuses on sustainability must think differently," says Heinen-Esser.

(Orig. text: Christian Schwerdtfeger / Translation: ck)