• Growth of European Plastic recycling capacity

Waste Management

Growth of European Plastic recycling capacity

Mar 09 2023

The recent report on the 17% growth in plastic recycling capacity in the EU27+3 is a welcome development, demonstrating that the industry is committed to building a circular plastic future. This growth has been made possible by the investments made by various stakeholders, totaling an estimated €1.75 billion. The plastic recycling sector, with its 730 recycling sites, now has a total capacity of 11.3 million tonnes, employing over 30,000 people and contributing €8.7 billion in turnover to the European economy.

The increased advancements in legislation, such as the Plastics Strategy and the Single-Use Plastics Directive, have helped the recycling industry weather the challenges it has faced in recent years. Ton Emans, the President of the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organizations (PRE), has praised the industry's resiliency to external factors and expects that the positive growth observed today will further strengthen the market for recycled plastics towards meeting EU targets.

The increase in plastic recycling capacity has been driven by the flexible PE & PP, PET, and rigid PE & PP polymers, which account for over 75% of the total share. These streams have shown the highest increase compared to 2020, with nearly half of the recycling capacity for rigid polyolefins dedicated to the household stream and half of the capacity for flexible PE & PP being for commercial waste. Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, and France are the countries with the highest installed capacities, representing two-thirds of the total market, while Poland and the Netherlands have seen notable growth.

The plastic recycling industry is an important employment generator, with over 30,000 jobs across Europe, and contributes substantially to the socio-economic welfare of the region. Increased investments and new capacities have created a strong foundation for the circular economy transition for plastics. However, a coherent legislative framework and its thorough implementation are critical to accelerating the transition further. The newly released proposal for the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, which calls for a comprehensive, EU-wide assessment scheme for design for recycling and sets specific recycled content targets, will help to achieve this goal.


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