Contribution of plastics to a sustainable circular economy (DGAW, 2024)

June 13, 2024

Presentation by Prof. Dr. Uwe Lahl at the DGAW board meeting, 13 June 2024, Bremen: Sustainable circular economy must improve in two areas:

1. Recycling of plastics from cycles without a ‘closed and controlled chain’ ((EU) 2022/1616) leads to hazardous products. Products with or made from recycled materials must fulfil the same requirements as new products made from virgin plastic. A moratorium on the use of recyclates of unknown origin is therefore advisable for all plastic products that come into close contact with people (packaging, children’s toys, kitchen utensils, clothing, indoor products). Only recyclates from secure cycles should be used.

2. Open loop recycling, in which wood or cement rather than plastics are substituted, does not represent ecologically high-quality recycling. Quotas for open loop recycling therefore contribute nothing to the raw material transition in the plastics industry. This is why closed loop substitution quotas are being advocated, as provided for the first time by the new European Packaging Ordinance.

Prof. Dr. Uwe Lahl explained these proposals in more detail in his presentation at the DGAW board meeting on June 13, 2024 in Bremen. You can download his presentation via the link below.



Presentation Prof. Dr. Uwe Lahl, 13.6.2024 (in German)

More than 30 Years of PVC Recycling in Europe — Need for Regulation (Sustainability, 2024)

June 7, 2024

The article by Prof. Dr. habil. Uwe Lahl and Dr. Barbara Zeschmar-Lahl on the topic “More than 30 Years of PVC Recycling in Europe — Need for Regulation” has been published in the Special Issue of Sustainability: Resources and Waste Management (Sustainability 2024, 16, 4891).

As documented in our “Critical Inventory” (Sustainability 2024, 16, 3854), the PVC industry’s track record to date of increasing the sustainability of PVC plastic is not convincing, although the industry takes a different view. The question, therefore, arises as to whether legislators should intervene in Europe or at national levels.

As we show in our paper, none of the waste disposal processes currently in use (mechanical recycling, energy recovery) have sufficient capabilities to absorb the additional quantities of PVC that will enter the waste management system from the existing stock in the future. Therefore, the only solution for today’s PVC waste, and especially the stock problem that is heading towards the waste management sector, is to collect and dispose of PVC separately. Chemical recycling and mono-incineration have the potential to solve the stock problem in the future. However, this will require the construction of separate collection and industrial plants, which, in the case of chemical recycling, will technically need two stages in order to separate the chlorine as HCl in advance.

The creation of a plant infrastructure with which PVC could be processed would relieve the other parts of the waste management sector of chlorine massively. VinylPlus/EuPC stated: “The European PVC manufacturers, converters and recyclers would be more than happy to process the waste if efficient logistic systems would exist to bring the waste to them”, and they “would welcome to make this separate collection mandatory.”

Now it’s Brussels’ turn.

Below you will find a link to download this and the previous article as well as the special edition with further interesting articles.


Sustainability 2024, 16, 4891
Sustainability 2024, 16, 3854
Sustainability: Special Issue

More than 30 Years of PVC Recycling in Europe — A Critical Inventory (Sustainability, 2024)

May 9, 2024

The article by Prof. Dr. habil. Uwe Lahl and Dr. Barbara Zeschmar-Lahl on the topic „More than 30 Years of PVC Recycling in Europe — A Critical Inventory“ has been published in the Special Issue of Sustainability: Resources and Waste Management (Sustainability 2024, 16, 3854).

PVC is the mass plastic to which the most diverse and quantitatively largest number of additives are added. This makes PVC difficult to recycle. In the 1980s, the PVC industry announced its commitment to improve the sustainability of the material through material recycling. But after three decades, the recycling result is rather meagre. The majority of PVC waste in Europe is still going to waste-to-energy plants. The many attempts to end the chlorine cycle via waste incineration and to expand chemical recycling in parallel have not been successful. The main reasons are the quantity and variety of additives, legacy chemicals (legacy additives), and economic interests.

At the end of 2023, the European Chemicals Agency ECHA presented an “Investigation Report” about PVC following a request of the EU Commission. In a further article, the authors analyse the regulatory consequences from their point of view. This article is currently in the review process and can be viewed and commented on at

Below you will find a link to download the article, to the Special Issue with further interesting articles, and to the second article under review.



Sustainability 2024
Sustainability: Special Issue
2nd article on

SAICM post-2020: Final report published (UBA-Texte 78/2024)

April 30, 2024

At the end of September 2023, the World Conference on Chemicals (ICCM5) decided on the follow-up framework for SAICM by adopting the Global Framework on Chemicals (GFC). The GFC aims to ensure the sustainable use of chemicals worldwide throughout their entire life cycle, including the products and waste produced from them. In this study, indicators were developed using the concept of sustainable chemistry. To this end, established indicators were screened for their applicability and characterized on the basis of criteria. The criteria take into account, among other things, relevance, clarity, measurability and availability of data as well as important criteria of sustainable chemistry.

The contractors were N3 Nachhaltigkeitsberatung Dr. Friege & Partner, Voerde (project management), and the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP), Wuppertal, as well as BZL GmbH and Akademie Dr. Obladen, Berlin, as subcontractors. The final report on the project was published on the Federal Environment Agency’s website at the end of April 2024:

Friege H., Heidbüchel E., Zeschmar-Lahl B.: Indicators for sustainable management of chemicals. Contributions to upcoming development work under the new Global Framework for Chemicals. Ed.: Umweltbundesamt. UBA-Texte 78/2024

Plastics Recycling and Hazardous Substances – Risk Cycle (Müll und Abfall, 2024)

April 19, 2024

The updated article by Prof. Dr. habil. Uwe Lahl and his two co-authors on the topic of “Plastics recycling and hazardous substances – risk cycle” has been published in the  journal Müll und Abfall 4, 2024.

The production of new plastic articles has become increasingly demanding in terms of polymers and additive formulations. Can the recycling of mixed packaging plastics even meet today’s requirements for new products? We believe this is illusory. An honest assessment of the performance of post-consumer (PC) recycling of plastic packaging (packaging sold vs. recyclates in new products) for Germany shows: The result of quantitative material recycling is rather meager (perhaps 20%) and the recycled products are of inferior quality. Due to the overwhelming amount of data on hazardous substances (“legacy additives”) in plastic recyclates, we recommend that they no longer be used in consumer-related products (children’s toys, food contact materials/packaging, interior products, textiles, etc.).

Below you will find a link to the order form at Erich Schmidt Verlag.



Müll und Abfall 4, 2024

Wienerberger publishes combined Annual and Sustainability Report 2023

Quelle: Dma wb, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


March 25, 2024

We have been advising Wienerberger AG on the further development of its sustainability management for several years. This includes scientific advice on the preparation of the report on non-financial performance in accordance with the Sustainability and Diversity Improvement Act (NaDiVeG) and sustainability reporting in accordance with the GRI standard; this was also the case for the combined Annual and Sustainability Report 2023, which has been available for download on Wienerberger’s website since March 25, 2024.



Microsite Annual and Sustainability Report 2023

Plastics Recycling and Hazardous Substances – Risk Cycle (BKAWE, 2024)


February 8,  2024

The article by Prof. Dr. habil. Uwe Lahl and his two co-authors on the subject of “Plastics recycling and hazardous substances – Risk Cycle” (in German: Kunststoffrecycling und gefährliche Stoffe – Risk Cycle) has been published in the proceedings of the Berlin Conference on Waste Management and Energy – “Abfallwirtschaft und Energie 1” – by TK-Verlag.

Referring to current studies and scientific publications, the authors argue that the use of post-consumer recyclates (from packaging or technical products) for the manufacture of products with direct contact to humans should be discontinued for the time being. This applies in particular to children’s toys, food contact material (FCM)/packaging, indoor products and synthetic fibers.

Packaging should rather be collected unmixed in a controlled manner via extended deposit and return systems and sent for high-quality material recycling (closed loop, same product types such as PET bottles to PET bottles, PET trays to PET trays).

In the medium term, the existing separate collection of lightweight packaging could be converted into a dry collection of recyclable materials, for example to include plastics that were previously not recyclable or difficult to recycle (e.g. technical plastic products) and make them available for chemical recycling.

Below you will find a link to order the conference proceedings and to download the presentation at the conference in German and English.



Abfallwirtschaft und Energie 1 (2024)
Presentation (DE)
Presentation (EN)

Antriebswende: Chemische Energien (2023)

December 31, 2023

In December 2023, the book “Antriebswende”, edited by Baden-Württemberg’s Minister for Transport Winfried Hermann, was published by the Molino-Verlag (only in German). Our expert for innovative fuels, Uwe Lahl, contributed the chapter on “Chemical energies”.

Unfortunately, a mistake has crept into the text on page 71. “Conclusion on efficiency” should start with:

Die Flächeneffizienz ist ein “pro” für das ICE. Hingegen ist die Antriebseffizienz das zentrale »pro«, was für das BEV spricht.
(The space efficiency is a “pro” for the ICE. Propulsion efficiency, on the other hand, is the key “pro” in favor of the BEV.)

ICE = Internal Combustion Engine
BEV = Battery Electric Vehicle


NanoDialog of the Federal Government: Report on the final conference published

December 18, 2023

On June 22 and 23, 2023, international experts came together in Berlin for a two-day conference entitled How the world deals with materials at the nano scale. This conference marked the end of the German government’s NanoDialog. This internationally unique stakeholder dialog on the opportunities and risks of nanotechnologies was initiated by Prof. Dr. habil. Uwe Lahl, Head of the Department of Immission Control and Health, Plant Safety and Transport, Chemical Safety at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, and Matthias Machnig, then State Secretary at the BMU (now BMUV), and successfully continued by the Federal Ministry for the Environment for many years. The conference report has now been published in German and English on the BMUV website. You can download the reports via the links below.
DOWNLOAD Conference report (DE)
DOWNLOAD Conference report (EN)

Plastics Recycling and Hazardous Substances – Risk Cycle

January 30, 2024

Prof. Dr. habil. Uwe Lahl, Senior Expert for the chemical recycling of post-consumer plastic waste, will give a presentation on “Plastics Recycling and Hazardous Substances – Risk Cycle” (Kunststoffrecycling und gefährliche Stoffe – Risk Cycle) at the Berlin Conference on Waste Management and Energy and will take part in the subsequent panel discussion on the “Future of the Circular Economy”. You can download the program flyer via the link below.



DOWNLOAD Programme flyer

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