IFAT | What impulses do you expect from the National Circular Economy Strategy included in the new German government's coalition agreement?
Kurth | We welcome the clear commitment of the ‘traffic light’ coalition to the circular economy in the coalition agreement. It is now important to develop the announced “National Circular Economy Strategy” with the involvement of the economic sector and to quickly implement it, as it is a vital prerequisite for fully exploiting the economic and ecological potential of a functioning circular economy. Circular economy policy must increasingly also become product policy. And for product policy to steer the circular economy, the aim must be to do so at the very beginning of the value chain and with the help of clear incentives. In the future, we will require long-lasting, reusable, recyclable and, if possible, repairable products, which is why we need extended producer responsibility. So, it is only appropriate and logical that the coalition wants to push the use of recyclates and recycled raw materials by means of product-specific minimum quotas, not only for packaging. Another important step is to introduce digital product passports to make recycling possible and to guarantee binding qualities for new high-grade material cycles. This is the only way to succeed in implementation. And the announced recycling label, which the BDE has been demanding for a long time, will provide the necessary transparency.
IFAT | What effects did and does the coronavirus pandemic have on the waste management and recycling industry?
Kurth | Once again, the German recycling and waste management industry proved to be relatively robust also in the second year of the pandemic. In a BDE survey among its members at the beginning of the year, half of the companies surveyed reported an improved order situation compared to the previous year. These are good signals in a time of great turmoil around the world and the industry has been able to stand up well to all the challenges. Although the positive figures give companies a confident outlook, there are still some major tasks to be tackled this year. Combating the shortage of skilled workers and drivers will remain a top issue in 2022. And the focus is on the energy costs, which are skyrocketing at the moment due to the war. We have also observed that the shift in waste volume flows to the private sector has continued: there have been increases in glass, light-weight packaging, and cardboard packaging. This trend proves that the lifestyle in times of the coronavirus has concentrated on the private environment.
IFAT | What importance do you attach to IFAT Munich 2022?
Kurth | IFAT Munich 2022 has all the prerequisites to mark the new start of our environmental economy. It is four years since the industry last met in Munich and despite the pandemic, time has not stood still in the companies. The Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan were adopted in Brussels. The circular economy is one of the strongest start-up sectors. New companies are more strongly represented at IFAT than ever before. IFAT Munich 2022 will therefore be a hub of new ideas and innovations for the circular economy. Topics such as the broad area of digitalization, but also legal regulations at the European level, will take up a great deal of space. Our European umbrella organization FEAD will celebrate its 40th birthday during IFAT. In addition, many personalities from the political arena have announced their visit to Munich. So, a lot is going to happen. And of course, the industry representatives are looking forward to finally meeting in person again, because even the best Zoom conference cannot replace personal exchange.