plastic recycling bales
Brussels-based PRE says “installed plastics recycling capacities” reveal a 13 percent growth rate in the EU.
Photo by Recycling Today staff.

Europe’s plastic recycling volume growing, group says

Plastics Recyclers Europe says plastic recycling capacity is growing at an impressive pace in the EU.

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Brussels-based trade association Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) says the plastic recycling industry in the European Union (EU) is continuing “fast-paced efforts toward reaching the EU targets,” with “new figures for installed plastics recycling capacities” revealing a 13 percent growth rate.

The total installed plastics recycling capacity in 2020 in the EU27 nations (plus three nations adhering to EU regulations) grew by 1.1 metric tons compared with the previous year’s installed capacity.

“The new figures show that the plastics recycling industry remains resilient while continuing its path toward making plastics genuinely circular,” states PRE. Growth in the sector, despite the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, was possible “thanks to the booming demand driven, among others, by the new legislative targets,” PRE adds.

PRE says its data shows that polyethylene terephthalate (PET), flexible polyolefin (PO), rigid high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) retain the biggest share of the overall plastics recycling capacity, representing nearly 80 percent.

PRE says Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and France have the highest capacities for plastic scrap recycling.

Rigid HDPE and PP registered the highest increase in recycling capacities, with a growth rate of more than 20 percent, says PRE, while for flexible PO the recycling rate grew by roughly 10 percent.

Fast-paced technological developments in collection, sorting and recycling were among the factors that facilitated these developments, PRE says. “New business models open a wide array of opportunities in our industry,” says Ton Emans, president of PRE. “This is the case for film-to-film recycling, once deemed difficult and today a testament of the market maturing.”

With some $8.1 billion in annual sales and a total of 9.6 million metric tons of installed recycling capacity, European recyclers are an essential part of the puzzle in addressing plastic scrap and play a significant role in contributing toward a carbon-neutral Europe, says PRE.

“Comprehensive legislative support would unlock additional collection and high-quality sorting tonnages while incentivizing investments in recycling technologies and infrastructures leading to a tripling of plastics recycling capacities by 2030,” the organization adds.

Adds PRE, “Taking advantage of the momentum created by this growth, recyclers are at the forefront of making plastics circular while continuing to collaborate with actors from across the value chain.”