European plastic recyclers struggling to get hold of feedstock, PRE warns

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Mixed plastics
Mixed plastics

Plastic Recyclers Europe (PRE) has warned that European plastic recyclers are finding it difficult to source enough feedstock for their operations.

The organisation said that low volumes of sorted plastic waste are negatively impacting on the operations of plastic recyclers across Europe and risks creating an obstacle to meeting EU targets.

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PRE president Ton Emans said: “This situation could slow down the transition towards a full plastic circularity.

“The recent EU policy and global developments have boosted massive investments in the plastic recycling capacities on the continent as in 2020 the plastic recycling industry invested €1.5bn (£1.29bn) which translates into 1.1Mt additional installed capacity when compared to the previous year and a total of €4.9bn (£4.21bn) of investments since 2017.

“However, without stable, high-quality input materials the industry’s efforts to reach the new recycling targets might be hindered. Robust sorting and collection infrastructure is a must to increase stable feedstocks for European recyclers.”

PRE also noted that this had been unexpected for the European plastic recycling sector, which expected more material to be available following the Chinese ban on importing plastics, and the strengthening of Basel Convention rules on shipment of scrap plastics.

But PRE said despite these developments and the increase in price of sorted material, no substantial additional quantities of recyclable plastics had been seen.

With 9 million tonnes of plastic being collected for sorting out of 30 million total, this meant that 21 million tonnes was either being incinerated or sent to landfill.

There is also a 20 million tonne gap in the amount of waste that is generated and what is put on the market.

PRE would therefore like to see transparent reporting on waste generation, collection and sorting so that missed quantities can be identified and recycled.