Plastics Recyclers Europe: Plastic recycling capacity is growing amid crises
09 Mar 2023 --- Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) has found that installed plastic recycling capacity grew by 17% in 2021 in the EU and the UK due to an estimated €1.75 billion (US$1.85 billion) investment.
Despite recent challenges, such as the European energy crisis and low accessibility of sorted plastic waste, the commitment of recyclers to drive the transition toward a circular plastic future remains strong.
“In recent years, European plastics recyclers have experienced many challenges. However, with the increased advancements in legislation stemming from implementing the Plastics Strategy and the Single-Use Plastics Directive, the recycling industry has weathered the crisis showing its resiliency to external factors,” says Ton Emans, PRE president.
“The positive growth we can observe today will shape and further strengthen the market for recycled plastics toward meeting the EU targets,” he adds.
Contributing to socio-economic welfare
With more than 730 recycling sites in the EU and the UK, the total capacity now stands at 11.3 million metric tons. PRE says this shows that the plastic recycling sector is an important employment generator, with more than 30,000 persons across Europe. With €8.7 billion (US$9.2 billion) in turnover, plastic recycling contributes substantially to the socio-economic welfare in the region.
PET and rigid PE and PP. These streams showed the highest increase compared to 2020.Regarding the polymers split, more than three-thirds of the total share is covered by flexible PE and PP,
When it comes to rigid polyolefins, nearly half of the recycling capacity is dedicated to the household stream. Half of the capacity for flexible PE and PP is for commercial waste.
PRE notes that Germany, Spain, Italy, UK and France are the countries with the highest installed capacities, representing two-thirds of the total market. Furthermore, countries with notable growth are Poland and the Netherlands.
Plastics circularization as top trend
Innova Market Insights has named “Plastics circularization” as this year’s top packaging trend. The market researcher has found that although plastic reduction initiatives are gathering pace and renewable alternatives are on the rise, plastic’s inherent qualities as a lightweight, versatile and hygienic material means that production and consumption continue to increase.
The global market researcher found that 61% of global consumers believe the increased use of plastic packaging is necessary – although perhaps undesirable – since the COVID-19 pandemic for safety reasons.
Despite the plastic pollution crisis and poor recycling rates, 72% of global consumers still believe plastic has average or above recyclability relative to other materials. Moreover, half (52%) say they would pay more for a product if it came in recyclable packaging.
Further legislation needed
The organization highlights that increased investments and new capacities have created a strong foundation for the circular economy transition for plastics.
A coherent legislative framework and its thorough implementation are critical to further build on that, as it is one of the most important factors contributing to the unprecedented demand for recycled materials.
The plastic recycling capacity transition will be further accelerated due to the newly released proposal for the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, which calls for a comprehensive, EU-wide assessment scheme for design for recycling and sets specific recycled content targets.
Meanwhile, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has criticized the newly released study by the European Commission about plastic recycling as it does not sufficiently address human health risks and environmental aspects.
The suggested framework moves in the right direction by adding environmental impact and introducing a long-term vision to the substitution potential of recycled material, thus allowing for putting closer the climate, environmental and circular economy agenda,” Lauriane Veillard, policy officer on chemical recycling and plastic-to-fuel, at ZWE told PackagingInsights.
By Natalie Schwertheim
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