Netherlands plastic recycling market has collapsed

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Dutch plastic recycling
An image from Dutch TV programme Monitor that discussed the collapse of the Netherlands plastic recycling market

The Netherlands plastic recycling market has collapsed, according to participants, due to coronavirus and cheap virgin plastic.

Dutch TV station KRO-NCRV has broadcast a programme called Monitor in which it showed thousands of bags of shredded plastic that are being stored for recycling.

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It contained an interview with Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Stientje van Veldhoven in which she said she is actively trying to find customers for the material along with the recycling industry.

Veolia Polymers director Gerrit Klein Nagelvoort told the programme: “We no longer have any sales. I have never experienced this in the 35 years that I have been in the trade.

“Everything has turned 180 degrees. This is dramatic.

“Apparently, companies that have always promoted sustainability suddenly don’t care anymore.”

While the coronavirus situation has made it worse, the problems started before the outbreak according to trade association NRK.

In a letter sent to Minister van Veldhoven in April, NRK wrote: “Turnover has dropped by up to 90%.

“Making the Netherlands more sustainable and a circular economy requires accelerated growth of the recyclate.

“This is the result of trade disputes, shale gas production in the United States and associated additional capacity for the production of completely new or ‘virgin’ plastics.”

But issues with collection in the Netherlands are also causing issues. The letter added: “Ultimately, stagnating collection, sorting and recycling will also mean we will not achieve the recycling targets you have set.”

Klein Nagelvoort added that unless a solution is found soon, the material will need to go to energy from waste facilities. He said: “Our storage space is now packed. We rent extra space, but at some point this will no longer be possible.”

He called for an obligation on companies to use recycled plastic: “It will be difficult for politicians to sell because what the market looks like now means extra costs for companies. But you have to do something. Preferably on an international level. Because this is a European problem. The situation is everywhere.”

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