Gap in the supply of sorted waste to recyclers

Plastics Recyclers Europe released a new announcement reporting low availability of sorted plastic waste. According to the report of the organisation, this may be negatively impacting the operations of its members, slowing down the transition towards a full plastics’ circularity and creating an obstacle to meeting the EU’s recycling targets.

Plastics Recyclers Europe says that the struggle to source plastic waste for recycling was unexpected, following a registered decline in exports of waste from Europe. A few factors have led to this drop, including China’s import ban and the strengthening of the controls of transboundary movements of plastic waste in the context of the Basel Convention supervised by OECD, enabling reportedly the continuous decrease of the exported waste from Europe to developing countries from 3Mt in 2014 to 1Mt in 2021.

On the other hand, global developments and the EU policy in recent years have led to massive investments by the plastic recycling industry. The European Recyclers are continuously upscaling their capacities, with a major 60% growth seen over the last four years. According to Ton Emans, PRE President, a total of €4.9bn of investments were completed since 2017 and €1.5bn was invested only in 2020. This translates into 1.1Mt additional installed capacity, resulting in a 13% increase compared to the previous year.

However, Plastics Recyclers Europe reports that, despite the above, no substantial additional quantities of waste are being sent to recyclers today. “Without stable, high-quality input materials the industry’s efforts to reach the new recycling targets might be hindered”, said Ton Emans, PRE President. According to the organization, the lack of a robust collection infrastructure in the continent creates a serious issue in the supply of sorted waste to its members. It is reported that only 9Mt of plastic waste is being sorted out of 30Mt collected in total, with the remainder either incinerated or landfilled.

Whtat is more, the report of Plastics Recyclers Europe mentions that the statistics demonstrate a 20Mt gap in the amount of waste that is generated versus what is put on the market. Therefore, the organisation calls for transparent reporting on waste generation, collection and sorting, so that missed quantities can be identified and recycled. This is critical in order to divert recyclable plastic from landfills and incinerators and it will progressively enable the creation of economies of scale for recycled polymers.

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Written by Dominy Jones

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