European flexible PE recycling capacity has grown by 800,000 tonnes since 2015

HDPE milk bottles

The installed capacity for recycling polyethylene (PE) in Europe has increased by 800,000 tonnes since 2015.

According to trade body Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), the increase in European capacity to recycle products including HDPE and LDPE has gone from 1.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 2.3 million tonnes currently.


With Europe having an extrusion capacity of 7.4 million tonnes, this equates to a 31% recycling rate.

The data comes from 174 plastics recyclers across Europe, with Spain (18%), Germany (17%), Italy (13%), Poland (10%) and France (6%) representing two thirds of Europe’s flexible PE recycling capacity.

Sources of flexible PE made available for recycling include retailer waste (43%), production waste (23%), agricultural waste (17%) and household packaging (13%).

PRE president and chairman PE working group Ton Emans said: “The plastics recycling sector has been very dynamic in the last few years. This shows that the industry is paving the way to enhance the circularity of plastics. In addition, the Circular Economy Package and the Plastics Strategy give clear targets to reach. On the other hand, China’s ban on import is further driving investments in sorting and recycling plants.

“The Plastics Strategy of the Commission and the Chinese import ban have already a positive impact as we see an acceleration of new projects across Europe. This is especially the case for household flexible plastics waste.

“The latest technological developments enable efficient sorting, washing, extrusion and filtering of the plastics. Nonetheless, much effort is still needed in terms of Design for Recycling. Multilayers materials remain unrecyclable and thus there is a need to move to monomaterial alternatives which can be recycled. This will enable further developments in recycling of flexible plastics in Europe.”


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