Prof. Dr. Vera Susanne Rotter

Curriculum vitae

Vera Susanne Rotter, is since 2003 as junior professor, since 2010 as full professor head of the group ‘Solid waste management‘ at the Technische Universität Berlin. The group changed in 2016 its name to ‚circular economy and recycling technologies’ following a new research profile.

Professor Rotter main research areas are innovative separation technologies and circular economy concepts, product-oriented recycling strategies and producer responsibility, and integration of secondary raw material in value chains. With her team she works in national and international project consortia addressing the technologies and information management to support the recovery of critical raw materials from electronics, batteries, photovoltaic and vehicles. Further projects address the sustainable management of residual biomass in the NEXUS energy – agriculture and climate change mitigation - soil protection , i.e. in Vietnam und China.  In the period 2016-2020 Prof. Rotter got appointed by the as council member of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) German federal government.

„Incinerating, recycling, decarbonizing? – plastics in the circular economy“

Plastics are part of a global fossil-based industrial production network. They offer great benefits daily consumer goods as well as for low carbon technologies such as light-weighting for automotive technologies, and high-performance insulation materials for buildings. However, handling them in a sustainable manner becomes a global challenge due to rapidly increasing consumptions rates and unintended ubiquitous dissipation in the environment, both associated with significant environmental impacts.

Despite of existing legislation and technologies, present data on plastics flows show a significant circularity gap. Barriers rapid transition towards circular plastics economy are existing waste management structures as well as, both, product-use and material-inherent properties. To develop future-prove solutions a number of boundary condition have to be taken into consideration. Future greenhouse gas neutrality and associated decarbonization of all economic sectors, will change plastic feedstock sourcing, petrochemical production lines as well as boundary condition for environmental impact assessments.

The German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU –Sachverständigenrat für Umweltfragen) developed a framework[1] to rethink the waste hierarchy in terms of bridging the current gap between consumption, product and waste policies as well as the environmental alignment of CE measures and expand existing waste hierarchy by including:

  1. Reduction of total RM input for products, infrastructure and services;
  2. Production of “CE-compatible” goods (durable, pollutant-free, material-efficient, reparable, recyclable etc.);
  3. Definition of binding targets for waste prevention and preparation for reuse;
  4. Formulation of recycling targets and measures based on secondary raw material quality and safe removal of pollutants.

Figure 1: New extended CE Hierarchy proposed by SRU

This presentation will assess a managing options for plastics (incinerating, recycling or decarbonizing) relative to the extended CE hierarchy and will conclude that only a coherent set of measures on all levels of the hierarchy will deliver the urgent needed transition.