Germany remains the largest exporter of plastic waste in the EU. However, exports have almost halved in the past ten years.

Germany exports significantly less plastic waste abroad than just a few years ago. Exports in 2021 were a good 766,200 tons, a quarter (25.2 percent) less than in the previous year, as the Federal Statistical Office announced on Tuesday in Wiesbaden.

In a ten-year comparison, the amount has almost halved. Germany remains the largest exporter of plastic waste in the EU.

Chinese ban a factor

In addition to disrupted supply chains, one reason for the decline in exports may be the import restrictions in some Asian countries, the statisticians explained. “In 2021, less than a ton of plastic waste went from Germany to China – ten years earlier, the People’s Republic was still the largest customer with 763,400 tons.” China banned the import of unsorted plastic waste in 2018.

Exports to other Asian countries and regions also fell significantly in 2021 or were almost completely eliminated due to similar rules: 99 percent less plastic waste was exported to Hong Kong than in 2020 and 94 percent and 92 percent less to Taiwan and Indonesia.

Disposal in developing countries particularly critical

The most important buyers of plastic waste from Germany in 2021 were the Netherlands, which has an important transhipment point for sea freight with the port of Rotterdam. Turkey and Poland followed.

Environmentalists are critical of waste exports. They warn of environmental damage if the garbage ends up in poorer countries and there is hardly any control over where it remains. Exports to neighboring EU countries such as the Netherlands are considered less critical because the recycling standards there are similarly high.

There is a lot of plastic waste, especially in private households. In 2020, public waste disposal companies in Germany collected more mixed recyclable materials and mixed packaging than at any time since the household waste survey began in 2014, according to the statisticians.