The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published two Briefings on “Resource Efficiency and Waste”, one of which specifically targets plastics recycling. The Agency indicates that of 30 million t/y plastic waste generated in Europe, only 17% is collected for reuse or recycling and only 6% of new plastics come from recycling. Packaging is the biggest source of plastics waste (16 Mt/y), followed by WEEE, construction/demolition and end-of-life vehicles. The EU is also under pressure to improve plastics recycling because exports of plastic waste have been cut from 3.6 Mt/y in 2016 to 1.8 Mt/y in 2019 because of import restrictions in China and Basel convention restriction on exports on some waste plastics (because of presence of POP brominated flame retardants). The EEA considers that plastics recycling offers major opportunities for resource efficiency (circular economy) in Europe. Challenges indicated are the need to increase collection rates (improve systems, ensure consumer awareness) and to improve sorting, to ensure quality of streams of collected plastics (reduce material heterogeneity and avoid the presence of hazardous additives), need for more cost-effective recycling technologies.
European Environment Agency Briefings “Resource efficiency. The plastic waste trade in the circular economy” https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/waste/resource-efficiency/the-plastic-waste-trade-in and “Reducing loss of resources from waste management is key to strengthening the circular economy in Europe” https://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/reuse-and-recycling-are-key