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Germany Cuts Plastic Waste Exports by 51 Pct in a Decade

Germany cut plastic waste exports by 51 percent over the last ten years, with 745,100 tonnes exported in 2022, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) said on Tuesday.

One reason was “import restrictions on plastic waste by some Asian countries.” The volume of German plastic waste exports decreased by 9 percent between 2021 and 2022.

In a comparison with other European Union (EU) member states, however, Germany still exported the largest amount of plastic waste in 2022. According to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, the bloc’s second largest exporter was the Netherlands, followed by Belgium.

Destatis released the data to mark World Oceans Day on Thursday. According to estimates by the United Nations (UN), “every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our ocean.”

Of the 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced between 1950 and 2017, around 7 billion tonnes became plastic waste that ended up in landfills or was dumped, according to the UN. To end plastic pollution, the UN is currently working on an international legally binding agreement by 2024.

A shift to a circular economy could reduce the amount of plastics entering oceans by over 80 percent by 2040, save governments 70 billion U.S. dollars in the same period and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, according to the UN.

“We continue to burn plastic waste, which releases climate-damaging CO2 and toxins, and export plastic waste to other countries,” Melanie Bergmann, marine biologist at the German Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), told Xinhua on Tuesday.

Even in the remote Arctic deep sea, increasing amounts of plastic waste and up to 13,000 microplastic particles per kilogram of sediment were found. “The fact that even such remote regions are already so polluted highlights the need to act quickly and effectively to prevent this problem from further impacting our health, climate change and biodiversity crisis,” Bergmann said.

A recent AWI study showed that plastic waste found in the Arctic originated from all around the world. One-third of plastic waste that still bore imprints or labels allowing analysis of its origin came from Europe. 

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