Hamburg's firms and universities join forces for recycling cycle

Five partners come up with detergent bottle made entirely of recycled material
25 August 2020
Außenalster und Fontenay

The Hamburg Wertstoff-Innovative has set itself the goal of establishing a recycling cycle in Hamburg to benefit the entire city. Five partners including the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Stadtreinigung Hamburg, Veolia, Unilever and the Bundi drugstore chain are already on board. They now hope to demonstrate how a recycling cycle works on a regional level. Their efforts have resulted in a detergent bottle made entirely of recycled plastic from Hamburg's recycling bin and yellow bag system. Although more and packaging made of recycled material is coming onto the market, hardly any packaging contains plastic from yellow bin waste. (In Germany, the term yellow bag refers to a yellow transparent plastic bag or sack for disposing of any waste made of plastic, metal or composite materials. A yellow bin is used in some cities as part of the German waste management’s dual system.)

Recycling cycle

Each partner to the Hamburg Werkstoff-Initiative or materials Initiative has a specific task. The Hamburger Stadtreinigung utilities company collects the packaging waste in yellow bags and delivers it to Veolia's sorting plant in Hamburg where plastic packaging made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is pressed into bales. In another plant, the HDPE is sorted by colour, crushed, cleaned, processed and squashed into tiny plastic balls or so-called regranulates. Unilever uses this recycled material to produce a detergent bottle made of fully recycled plastic. The finished product can be found on the shelves of Budni's drugstores. All these processes involve tests and inspections which are done in co-operation with experts at TUHH. The results are evaluated to improve the sorting and recycling processes.


Hamburg's Wertstoff-Innovative

The cycle comes full circle when consumers actually buy the bottle of detergent and return it to the recycling bin or the yellow bag system afterwards allowing the cycle to start anew. The plastic is used as packaging before and after recycling making for a functioning, regional bottle-to-bottle cycle.

Exemplary project

"I am particularly pleased that the recycled plastic bottle is a real Hamburg-based project initiated and implemented by companies in the city. I hope that this positive example will set a precedent," said Jens Kerstan, Senator for the Environment. "I urge the people of Hamburg to put their plastics in the yellow recycling bin and not in residual waste. Only the recyclable materials placed in the yellow bin can be recycled.”