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Plastics Europe publishes figures on the plastics cycle

Title of the "Circular economy report" from Plastics Europe

The "Circular Economy Report" from the association of plastics manufacturers shows that there is progress, but also hurdles, in the recycling of plastics.

The Plastics Europe report "The Circular Economy for Plastics: A European Analysis", which is published every two years, contains figures on recycling and the proportion of plastics made from non-fossil raw materials as well as an overview and detailed country reports on plastics production, processing, consumption and waste management of plastics in Europe, according to the association of European plastics producers. According to the report, circular plastics made from non-fossil raw materials and recycled post-consumer materials account for 13.5 per cent of newly manufactured plastic products in Europe and were largely obtained from mechanical recycling in 2022. According to the data, only 1 per cent comes from bio-based materials and only 0.1 per cent from chemical recycling. According to their plan for the transformation to a circular economy, the Plastics Transition Roadmap, European plastics manufacturers want to increase the proportion of circular plastics in the value chain to 25 per cent by 2030 and, given the current figures, believe they are halfway there.
The use of circular raw materials varies greatly from sector to sector, the report continues. Most recycled materials are used in the packaging, construction and agricultural sectors. In sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries, the use of recyclates is currently at a lower level. The report also shows that a total of 26.9 per cent of European plastic waste is currently recycled. This means that, for the first time, more plastic waste is recycled than is sent to landfill (7.6 million tonnes). According to Plastics Europe, this is an important milestone for a circular economy with plastics. However, in order to meet the growing demand for plastics made from non-fossil raw materials, the collection and sorting of plastic waste must be massively expanded and the availability of biomass and CO₂ from carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) must be increased, the association demands.
According to the survey, the incineration of plastic waste for energy generation has increased by 15 per cent in Europe since 2018, which Plastics Europe considers to be a cause for concern. This plastic waste is needed as a raw material and could in many cases be returned to the cycle through recycling. Virginia Janssens, Managing Director of Plastics Europe AISBL, the European umbrella organisation of plastics producers, explains: "The transformation to a circular economy is gathering pace, but it is disappointing that so much plastic waste is still being incinerated. We need this plastic waste as a raw material for the circular economy. If we do not incentivise this, the pace of transformation cannot be maintained to achieve the goals of the Plastics Transition Roadmap and the European Green Deal.“
According to the report, Europe's share of global plastics production has fallen from 22 per cent in 2006 to 14 per cent in 2022. If this trend continues, Europe will become increasingly dependent on plastic imports, warns Plastics Europe. This would jeopardise opportunities to invest in the circular economy and undermine the transformation of the downstream value chain that relies on these circular plastics, it says.
Further information: download the full report and a summary

  • Plastics Europe press release (20.3.2024)
  • Graphic: © Plastics Europe

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