German companies focus on waste-to-energy

Scrutinising the current landscape of circularity and recycling practices, Resourcify’s report “State of circularity for enterprises in Germany” quantifies the commitment and progress of 313 leading German companies.

A particularly concerning trend in the report is that companies are including waste-to-energy conversion (primarily in the form of incineration) within their “recycling” data. In reality, these companies are falling behind on their circularity targets and national averages — 68% have a recycling rate of less than 50% when waste-to-energy is excluded. This reveals an urgent need to rethink the inclusion of waste-to-energy conversion within the definition of recycling, as it is enabling businesses to inflate their recycling rates without committing to circularity.

47% of surveyed enterprises claim to invest in the circular economy via waste-to-energy conversion, despite the fact this keeps recyclable materials from re-entering the production process, leading to virgin resource extraction. Although contentious, waste-to-energy is the most popular way for enterprises to ‘invest in the circular economy’, alongside chemical recycling processes (used by 41% of companies surveyed). When landfill and incineration are taken out of the equation, companies’ recycling rates sink to an average of 44%,far below 2025 targets of 55%.

The report shows a trend of companies’ recycling rates being significantly inflated by waste-to-energy metrics and landfills — only 32% of companies surveyed achieve a recycling rate of 50% when excluding these practices.

Without incineration/landfills, only 12% of enterprises are achieving the 70% national average for production and commercial waste.

When comparing industries, over 50% of automotive/manufacturing, retail/fashion, and other industries consider the circular economy extremely important, while only 32.5% of the travel/tourism sector says the same.

You can read a detailed report on the study in the next international issue of RECYCLING magazine in May.


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