Plastic recyclers in Europe struggling to get enough plastic waste

Plastic recycling collection

Low available volumes of sorted plastic waste are negatively impacting the operations of plastic recyclers across Europe creating an obstacle to achieving the EU targets, Plastic Recyclers Europe (PRE) says.

PRE says this comes unexpectedly as for a few years the EU has been registering a decline in exports of waste while recyclers continued to upscale the installed capacities with a 60% growth in 4 years.

PRE President, Ton Emans, said: “This situation could slow down the transition towards a full plastic circularity.

“The recent EU policy and global developments have boosted massive investments in the plastic recycling capacities on the continent as in 2020 the plastic recycling industry invested €1.5bn which translates into 1.1Mt additional installed capacity when compared to the previous year and a total of €4.9bn of investments since 2017.

“However, without stable, high-quality input materials the industry’s efforts to reach the new recycling targets might be hindered. Robust sorting and collection infrastructure is a must to increase stable feedstocks for European recyclers.”

Plastic recycling in Europe is a rapidly growing sector representing over €7.7 billion in turnover.

The Chinese imports restrictions and the strengthening of the controls in the context of the Basel Convention and OECD Decision on Transboundary Movements of Waste both enabled the continuous decrease of the exported waste from 3Mt in 2014 to 1Mt in 2021.

Despite these developments and regardless of the increase in the price of sorted material pushed by the growing prices of recycled materials, PRE says no substantial additional quantities of waste are being sent to recyclers today.

PRE is calling for transparent reporting on waste generation, collection and sorting, so that missed quantities can be identified and recycled.

Out of the 30Mt waste in total being collected, with 9Mt tons of plastic waste being collected for sorting, PRE says increasing the plastic waste accumulated for recycling remains one of the key measures in Europe.

The remainder of the collected waste -21Mt – is either incinerated or landfilled.

PRE says challenging these figures is critical to divert recyclable plastic from landfills and incinerators to create economies of scale for recycled polymers.

CEO of cirplus, a European digital marketplace for circular plastics, Christian Schiller, said on the reported low availability of sorted plastic: “The latest statistics from (PRE) on the state of the European recyclables market shows a serious gap, 20 million tons, between the amount of waste generated and what is actually put on the market.

“Recyclable and recyclates must finally be traded as transparent commodity, to meet the ever-growing demand for quality recyclates world-wide.

“To achieve this, a digital system must be put in place that can navigate the complexities and fragmentation of global plastic waste markets. Waste managers should seize this opportunity and get ahead of the curve by digitalising offline processes, leading to reduced costs and potentially even turning waste streams into revenue streams.”

Send this to a friend