Europe’s Plastics Recycling Sector in Dire Straits

The European plastics recycling industry is warning of shutting down production because of market developments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), an organization representing the voice of European plastics recyclers. The major problems are the lack of demand due to the closure of converting plants and the record low prices of virgin plastics as well as decreased global activity.

Plant shut down because of COVID-19
Image: Blue Planet Studio/Adobe Stock

PRE President Tom Emans commented, “If the situation persists and no actions are taken, plastics recycling will cease to be profitable, hampering attainment of EU recycling targets and putting in jeopardy the transition toward circular plastics. In such a case, recyclable plastic waste will have no alternatives but to be sent to landfill or incineration.”

Damage to the recycling market would, in addition to the grave environmental consequences, have far-reaching socio-economic impacts due to the extensive employment in the waste management value chain, PRE noted. The plastics recycling industry calls on the EU and member states to include recycling as one of the sectors supported by their recovery plans to continue implementing the measures under the circular economy umbrella.

Safeguarding the positive developments within this market is essential to reduce Europe’s use of virgin plastics and, therefore, for the survival of the secondary raw materials market as well as further investments in the sector. Recyclers are important facilitators of the circularity of plastics and the transition toward the circular economy, said PRE.

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