Announced restrictions on plastic scrap imports in China have put a spotlight on the notion that “Europe’s waste management systems have been actively supporting and assisting the treatment of low-quality plastic [scrap] in China,” according to Brussels-based Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE).
“The market is oversupplied with low qualities of plastics waste due to China’s restrictions on imports,” says Ton Emans, PRE president. “These low qualities used to be exported as a cheap end-of-life solution for badly collected and sorted waste. This unfair practice, in terms of economic, social and environmental implications, is at the edge of the legal requirements imposed by the Waste Directives. As a matter of fact, exporters should have demonstrated that the exported waste is treated according to the EU standards.”
PRE says much of the plastic scrap that had formerly been shipped to China now “is unable to be totally absorbed in the EU, as it does not meet the quality requirements” of European plastic scrap consumers. “This abrupt change in the market conditions demonstrates the urgency needed to implement a real and sustainable waste market in Europe,” the organization says.
The group says the time is right for changes and investments to be made, adding that the scrap can only be consumed in Europe “by driving the quality upwards [through] changes in design for recycling, collection and sorting.”
“Industry, policymakers and society must now urgently bring a common solution to the table to allow immediate implementation of enhanced design for recycling, harmonized collection and investment in highly efficient sorting centers in order to increase the EU’s recycling capacity,” states PRE.