Separation lables for waste disposal

In our everyday lives, waste cannot be avoided. Proper disposal is important to both disposal companies and many consumers. However, with packaging made of several materials that have to be disposed of differently, we are often unsure about waste separation. Currently, for example, in Germany, 30 % of waste (trenn-hinweis.de, 2023) is disposed of incorrectly in yellow garbage cans or yellow bags. Wrongly discarded plastics cannot be recycled and are burned (thermal utilization). As a result, valuable materials are lost for reprocessing.

Where do the separation lables come from?

Some retail chains and manufacturing companies have recognized the desire for clear instructions and print their own disposal notices on their packaging. But disposal companies want a standard system that consumers can clearly follow. For this reason, associations and initiatives have been founded that demand generally applicable instructions for waste separation on packaging. These include the German association Trennhinweis e. V., which was set up by dual systems - service companies for waste disposal and recycling.

Based on the Packaging Act, the association has developed a labeling system that works across manufacturers (trenn-hinweis.de, 2023). All distributors (production and trade), which are registered with the Zentralen Stelle Verpackungsregister (ZSVR), can use the standard graphics free of charge. This is intended to increase the collection volumes of recyclable materials as well as improve the quality of the collected recyclables.

The service is already being used by well-known brands such as the drugstore chain Müller, Bübchen, Hochland, Bedda, the Netto discount chain and many others.

How do separation labels work?

The separation of waste is clearly regulated in Germany: /p>

  • Used glass container for glass
  • Blue garbage can / wastepaper container for paper and cardboard
  • Yellow garbage can / sack for recyclable plastics, metals and packaging with the Grüner Punkt lable
  • Green / brown garbage can for organic waste
  • Grey / black garbage can for residual waste and non-recyclable materials

Given this variety, it is unsurprising that, according to a survey by Trennhinweis e. V., only 60% of consumers dispose of their waste in the correct garbage can. At the same time, proper waste separation facilitates the recovery of raw materials from waste and thus conserves resources.

The separation notice should therefore be both clearly visible and intuitively understandable. The free notices from Trennhinweis e. V. show at a glance and, if necessary, with colored highlighting, how to dispose of packaging correctly:

  • Yellow garbage can / sack
  • Paper bin
  • Glass collection
  • A combination of two or three notices

Furthermore, the notes can be individualized to fit better on the packaging. Also, QR codes can be printed on the labels to provide additional information and consumer tips from the association. Incidentally, the association's separation notices are recognized throughout the EU and may also be printed on goods entering the market abroad.

The dual systems hope that the standardized disposal instructions will provide consumers with better information and create more transparency in packaging production.

Waste separation is environmental protection

If incorrectly disposed of materials are incinerated, they have to be regenerated elsewhere. This costs additional raw materials. In addition, the environment is unnecessarily polluted with exhaust gases from the incineration plant. According to a study by the Öko-Institut, around 4 million tons of raw materials are recovered annually from the recycling of packaging from the yellow garbage cans / sacks. In addition, 1.95 million tons of climate-damaging emissions are saved. With optimal recycling, emissions could be reduced by 2.55 million tons by 2030 (bvad.de).

However, the separation tips of Trennhinweis e. V. do not only refer to the yellow garbage can. The recycling of paper and glass also demonstrably relieves the environment. According to a study by the Federal Environment Agency, waste paper already accounted for 79% (approx. 16.9 tons) of total paper consumption in 2020. In its production, it requires only half the energy and one-third the amount of water of virgin fiber paper. Less virgin fiber paper also means less forest clearance for its production. Reduced forestry conserves soils and ecosystems, and the remaining trees additionally bind CO2. To keep resource consumption for paper processing as low as possible, only recyclable paper and board (without varnishes or coatings) should end up in waste paper.

Unlike paper and plastics, which cannot be permanently recycled, glass can theoretically be melted down and reused for eternity. Recycling not only saves the raw materials, but also requires less heat. According to the Federal Environment Agency's study, 0.2 to 0.3% less energy is required for each percent of waste glass in the melting furnace. In 2015, containers made of green glass were already made of 90 % waste glass. White and amber glass contained 60 %, as no different colored cullet may be recycled in the case of the latter. Clear and uniform separation instructions prevent disruptive shards of ceramic and earthenware from ending up in the waste glass and hindering recycling.

As this data shows, a contribution to climate protection can be made even at the waste garbage can. Uniform, comprehensible separation instructions help consumers to dispose of waste correctly and thus protect resources and the environment.

Find out how to dispose of our greenbox products correctly in this guide.

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