German cities celebrate saving energy by switching to recycled paper

German cities celebrate saving energy by switching to recycled paper

In a country as fond of paper-based bureaucracy as Germany, there are huge energy savings to be made by public authorities changing the way they do things. For the last 15 years, an initiative has been encouraging city authorities to simply switch to recycled paper - and has just celebrated a major milestone. 

German cities celebrate switching to recycled paper

Over the past 15 years, the more than 100 German cities involved in the Pro Recyclingpapier scheme have saved more than 1.600 gigawatt hours of energy by switching from regular to recycled paper. 

According to the initiative’s “Paper Atlas”, which was published last week, public authorities in cities like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg have managed to increase the share of recycled paper they use by more than 25 percentage points since 2008 - from 68 percent 15 years ago to an average of 93,7 percent in 2021. In Nuremberg in Bavaria, the proportion rose to 100 percent, meaning it was granted the coveted “most-recycling-paper-friendly-city” award at a ceremony in Berlin. 

As a spokesperson for the initiative emphasised to dpa, the 1.600 gigawatt hours saved equates to roughly the amount of electricity the city of Munich would use in a year. Using recycled paper also helps save water - more than 7,4 billion litres of it since 2008, the spokesperson said.

Germany is one of world’s biggest paper consumers

While the move is certainly a step forward, according to a WWF study from 2019, Germany is the fourth-largest paper consumer in the world, after China, Japan and the US, working its way through around 18,8 million tons of paper per year. A government study in 2019 found that the per capita consumption of paper in Germany was higher than in any other industrialised or emerging country of the G20, at 241,7 kilograms per year. 

Rather than decreasing, paper consumption in Germany has actually increased over the past few years - mostly as a result of the strong increase in the number of people shopping via the internet. However, the federal government and other authorities also play their part, continuing to use over 1 billion sheets of paper per year.  

In 2021, Environmental Action Germany called for a rule change to end the flood of paper advertising mail addresses typically receive in the post. Back in 2019, the Green party called for a legally anchored waste avoidance target to cover paper and cardboard, but the push never made its way into policy. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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