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Status Report on the
German Recycling Economy 2024






INFA GmbH, INZIN e.V., Breer visuelle Kommunikation, TafelmitKollegen

On behalf of fourteen professional associations and the IFAT, the world’s leading trade fair for the environmental sector, together with INFA GmbH, INZIN e.V., Breer visuelle Kommunikation and TafelmitKollegen, Prognos compiled the 2024 Status Report for Germany's Circular Economy. Following previous reports in 2018 and 2020, the current report highlights the status within the sector for the third time.

The new edition gives an up-to-date comprehensive and extensively customised image of the whole range of the activities within Germany’s Recycling Economy. The report provides policy makers and the economy as well as the media and an interested expert public with valuable information about the current and future challenges, services, and goals within the sector.

The Recycling Economy goes beyond classic waste management

In the last years, the way we think about the Recycling Economy has changed. Not least during the covid pandemic the performance and adaptation capacities of the sector were demonstrated. Due to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine the sector was tested for a second time, bringing to the fore how strongly Germany depends on the import of energy and raw materials and how rapidly disruptions to the delivery chain can lead to problems. In both instances, the system relevance of the sector for the economy and society as a whole was clear to see.

The waste management sector can play an important role in reducing these dependencies through the recirculation of raw materials but also through the energy exploitation of waste. 

The status report also shows:

  • The Recycling Economy is a growing sector: In 2021, the recycling economy achieved revenue of around 105 billion euros. Today, nationwide in Germany, the sector employs almost as many people as the energy sector and nearly four times as many people as the water and wastewater sectors.
  • The Recycling Economy is international: For four years now the German Recycling Economy has been an important actor in international trade in terms of plants, machines, and secondary raw materials.
  • The Recycling Economy is innovative: Start-ups are developing innovative recycling technologies, offering products as well as services to prolong service life, or creating platforms for the exchange and reuse of products.
  • The Recycling Economy is popular: Surveys on the most recognised professions and citizens’ reaction during the covid pandemic show – waste management workers, who were responsible for the collection and transport of waste, are well regarded by the population. According to a German Civil Servants Association survey from the year 2022, with a 70% approval rate, this profession group lies in seventh place across all professional groups.
  • The Recycling Economy is an employer: With around 310,000 employees in Germany, the Recycling Economy is one of the most important employers in the environmental sector- and this only looks to increase in the future. The jobs are system relevant, secure, and due to the growing technologization and digitalisation of the sector, becoming increasingly more varied and demanding.
  • The Recycling Economy saves resources: Of course, natural resources are the foundation for the manufacturing of products. Many of them have limited availability, which is why preserving them is particularly important. The goal of the Recycling Economy is to significantly reduce the use of resources and to succeed in dissociating that use from increases in population and economic growth.
  • The Recycling Economy protects the climate: According to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory emissions in the waste management sector have fallen by 75% from 38 million tonnes of C02 in 1990 to 4.3 million tonnes in the year 2022. Significant investment in the technical and organisational optimisation continue to contribute to the reduction and in some case avoidance of greenhouse gas production.
  • The Recycling Economy is part of the Circular Economy: The recycling of waste is one of the key elements of the Circular economy, an EU-wide strategy for adapting the linear economic model. 

Regular, comprehensive information on the German Recycling Economy

The goal of the Status Report is to provide comprehensive and objective information about the organisation structures, amounts, capacities, the economic relevance, the innovation capacity, and the expected economic and societal challenges for the Recycling Economy in the future.

Our data and information are based on publicly available statistics and studies as well as surveys and figures from the relevant professional associations and the IFAT. The contents and statements contained within the report were coordinated in agreement with the participating associations.

Links and downloads

Recycling Economy Status Report (PDF in German)

Further information (Status Report landing page)

More about our work on the Recycling Economy and resources

Project team: Patrick Bechhaus, Dr Bärbel Birnstengel, Lucas Bierhaus, Marieke Eckhardt, Nico Dietzsch, Dr Jochen Hoffmeister, Philipp Hutzenthaler, Dr Georg Klose, Jannis Lambert, Nadja Schütz, Yauheniya Shershunovich, Angelina Thevessen, Johann Weiss

Latest update: 25.1.2024

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Dr Jochen Hoffmeister

Partner, Director

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Nadja Schütz

Project Manager

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Dr Bärbel Birnstengel


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