The EU could miss reaching its own 2025 plastic packaging target because of import restrictions imposed by non-EU countries, a review warns.
Undertaken by the EU’s own Court of Auditors, the report shows that the EU risks not meeting its 50% recycling target by 2025.
This is due to a combination of the introduction of import restrictions by non-EU countries, a tougher export regime under the Basel Convention and tougher rules on reporting plastic recycling targets imposed on Member States by the EU itself.
With around a third of EU plastics exported for recycling outside of the EU, but markets such as China, Indonesia and Turkey introducing laws either banning or reducing imports, this will make it tougher to meet recycling targets the report warns.
It also noted that due to a downward correction in the plastic packaging rate that is expected due to a more strict reporting requirement means that the correct EU recycling rate could be as low as 29% to 32% instead of the average of 41% reported in 2017.
With the Basel Convention also introducing tougher rules on exports from 1 January 2021, the combination of all of this means the EU risks meeting its own targets especially as there is unlikely to be enough new infrastructure built in this time period to deal with the shortfall.
Due to this, there is also an increase in the possibility of greater waste crime it warns.
The report said: “Significantly increasing the EU’s average plastic packaging recycling rate in the next ten years, coupled with the need to improve the uptake of recycled content in new products, is clearly a challenge.
“It will be an even bigger challenge for those Member States currently below the EU’s average plastic packaging recycling rate.
“The challenge of ramping up recycling capacity in Europe is all the greater given the entry into force of the new Basel Convention in 2021. This will make the export of plastic packaging waste to third countries, which accounted for a third of the EU’s reported plastic packaging waste recycling rate in 2017, more difficult and increases pressure on the EU’s recycling capacity…
“…Given the challenges and gaps outlined above, there is a risk that Member States will miss the EU’s new plastic packaging recycling targets, putting at risk the attainment of the EU’s overall target as well.
“The expected increase in pressure on EU plastic recycling capacity will coincide with the likely reduction in shipment of waste outside the EU, an important outlet for excess plastic waste.
“This risks leading to an increase in waste crime and illegal shipping, compounded by weaknesses in the current EU legal framework for the protection of the environment through criminal law.”
However, the report did note that there had been increased inter-EU trade of recycled plastics with Slovenia seeing a 68% increase, Poland 30%, Czech Republic 26%, Spain 25%, and Netherlands and France a 20% rise.