Trade body sounds alarm on EU recycled plastic imports

Posted by aclimaadmin | 28/02/2024 | Noticias del Sector

Increasing imports of recycled plastics into the EU are deterring investment in recycling and threaten serious environmental consequences, trade body Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) has warned.

Claims about transitioning to a circular economy would then “be empty words”, without action to encourage recycling rather than imports of plastics.

It said the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation was intended to improve circularity by harmonising practices across EU member states and creating a market for recycled products. But, instead, the policy direction taken by European institutions was “making the initial optimism fade away”. 

This was a because allowing non-EU plastic waste to contribute to the targets for packaging produced and filled in the EU, while lacking reliable control and verification mechanisms, would damage what PRE called “an already shrinking and threatened market”.

EU importers were buying recycled products from abroad rather than those processed domestically, which deterred investment in EU capacity. PRE said this, in turn, meant that, in 2023, the market responded to this lack of capacity by increasing exports of EU plastic waste by 18% and by more use of landfill and incineration.

Less or no investments in recycling capacity in the EU would lead to European greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more than doubling by 2040, as more waste would be incinerated rather than recycled, PRE said.

“The competitiveness of the already threatened European industry is also being put at stake,” it said in a statement.

“As things stand, the legislators are sending a misleading message – that investments in the European plastics recycling value chain are not worth making. Recyclers are the first to suffer the consequences, but converters and raw material producers are next in line.”

Work commissioned this month by PRE from consultancy Systemiq showed that, if use of recycled PET imports slows or stalls, future investments in European recycling systems, recycling rate targets may not be met for PET packaging (only 34-50% in 2030 against a target of 55%). 

Systemiq also said European end-of-life GHG emissions could more than double as more PET/polyester is incinerated instead of being recycled (7.4-8.2 million tonnes of CO2 in 2040 against an ‘ambitious’ target of 3.7 million tonnes of CO2).

It said delivery of the ‘ambitious’ scenario by 2040 “requires European collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure capacity to almost triple from 2020 to 2040”. Under this, mechanical recycling capacity would need to expand from two million tonnes to 3.3 million tonnes a year and chemical PET recycling from negligible capacity today to 2.1 million tonnes a year.

Systemiq said: “Building this scale of recycling infrastructure is estimated to require 17bn euros (£14.5bn) in investment in sorting facilities, mechanical and chemical PET recycling. 

“However, increasing capacity for imports of recycled PET into Europe could negatively impact investor confidence and slow or stall future investments in new collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure in Europe. The recycling industry in Europe has raised the alarm about this potential effect.”

PRE’s call came a week after trade body EuRIC warned that Europe’s plastics recycling industry was under threat from a deluge of imports of plastic that are either virgin or poor-quality recyclate.

EuRIC said minimum recycled content targets for plastic packaging put on the market in the EU should be met by using post-consumer plastic packaging waste collected within the EU.

Fuente: MRW Magazine

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