Single-use bottles made from recyclate aren‘t greenwashing… but rather a significant step forward
It‘s fundamentally wrong to lable campaings on single-use plastic bottles made from 100% recyclate as greenwashing. We not only need recyclable products, we must also create markets for the recyclate at the same time. How else are we going to implement a circular economy? Recycling is not an end in itself. If we succeed in using recyclates, that will be a significant step forwards.
The German Environmental Aid (DUH) criticizes the large-scale campaigns of Lidl, Danone and Pepsi on single-use plastic bottles made of 100 percent recyclate as greenwashing. The DUH is fundamentally wrong in this. Not only do we need recyclable products, we also need to create markets for the recyclate. How else are we going to implement a circular economy? After all, recycling is not an end in itself. If we succeed in using recyclates, that will be an important step forwards. Institutions like the DUH should recognize this.
Moreover, the argumentation of Deutsche Umwelthilfe is based on a distorted comparison. DUH criticizes the fact that single-use bottles are ecologically inferior to regional reusable bottles even if they are made entirely of recyclate. Where this advantage is supposed to come from remains unclear. The fact that the DUH only admits the regional aspect to reusable bottles and includes it there is also analytically unclean and not very purposeful.
Of course, we can discuss whether reusable and recyclable is still more sustainable than single-use and recyclable. However, it is hardly possible to give a general answer to this question, but only on the basis of a life cycle assessment that takes into account the energy and chemicals used in cleaning and the necessary transport costs. However, such life cycle assessments do not yet exist.
Apart from that, the DUH overlooks a very fundamental fact: For a functioning circular economy, we not only need recyclable products, we also need a market for recyclate. After all, recycling is not an end in itself.
Greenwashing is a no-go. But to label the campaign by Lidl, Danone and Pepsi for single-use plastic bottles made of 100 percent recyclate as greenwashing simply misses the point. On the contrary, it is a major step forward if we succeed in using recyclates and keeping them in the cycle. Institutions such as DUH would therefore be well advised to recognize and acknowledge such efforts.