Recycling Rates in Europe. Glass Lags Behind in Germany

Recycling rates vary widely across, and within Europe. Germany is doing better with paper and plastics than glass, for example.

Reading time: 1m 15s

2020 EU Recycling rates of municipal packaging
2020 EU Recycling rates of municipal packaging

In the EU, the recycling rate across all materials is significantly lower than in Germany. The difference is particularly striking in the case of plastic.


Non-returnable glass creates the highest CO@ emissions of all types of packaging. When it is manufactured from scratch rather than recycled, they are especially high. 

Recycling rates of various packaging materials in Germany 2009-2019
Recycling rates of various packaging materials in Germany 2009-2019

Germany's glass recycling rate of glass in Germany is high and stable. However, other materials are doing much better. Paper and plastic are now almost completely recycled. 

"Using recycled glass saves energy to an appreciable extent"

The CO2 footprint of glass is clearly determined by its recycled content: Using waste glass saves a significant amount of energy because it takes much less energy to melt down waste glass than to produce new glass from sand. This means that it is in glass manufacturers' interest to achieve the highest possible recycling rate. The colour of the glass also plays a role here, because the recycling rate is usually highest in green glass and can be as high as 90%. In Germany, glass has a relatively high rate of recycling. However, what really matters is the energy efficiency of the plants and the energy sources used by the glassworks.

Dr. Helena Ponstein, Klimaneutraler Wein


Sources: Statista 2023 with data from Eurostat, GVM/BMUV, Nabu

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