AMI Plastics recycling - wasted time or wasted opportunity?

Editor: Briggette Jaya

A study recently published on the plastics recycling industry notes that this industry will need to develop and grow considerably.

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PE recycling rates by conutry/region in Europe based on 2017 data.
PE recycling rates by conutry/region in Europe based on 2017 data.
(Source: AMI)

The study undertaken by UK-based AMI Consulting reports that in order to meet the 2030 EU plastics packaging recycling targets, along with the effect of the Chinese waste import ban, the plastics recycling industry in Europe will have to double by that time.

The challenge (with growing capacity) is that the plastics recycling industry is a complex, dynamic segment with a varied supply stream and value chain. With prices of recyclate intrinsically linked to the price of virgin resin, demand and the financial viability of the process is often subject to fluctuations in raw material prices. Due to this, demand for recyclate is increasingly coming down as brand owners have the desire to be seen as ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘green’ and not because of financial incentives. Today, sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers. At the same time, the use of plastics is receiving considerable negative press, being focused in debates and discussions. Capturing the value of plastics through reuse and recycling helps retain a product which is primarily derived from the earth’s finite natural resources, while helping to prevent plastic waste leaking into the ecosystem and simultaneously create a circular economy. Because of this the plastics recycling industry is gaining growing attention.

Although polyethylene is currently the most recycled polymer in Europe, PET has the highest capture rate of plastics waste. Reason being, the main source of PET waste is from the post-consumer collection of PET drinks bottles, which in many countries are widely collected and have longstanding and robust collection systems in place. Where there is container-deposit legislation implemented, PET drink bottle collection rates reportedly reach as high as 96%, as they encourage consumer participation in the recycling system by giving financial incentives.

Developments in mechanical recycling technology are changing the shape of the plastics recycling industry and increasing the ability to recover more plastics in a closed-loop, helping to retain maximum value. However, because of quality and inconsistent supply, large volumes of recyclate are still going to lower value applications. New opportunities are available for those who wish to take advantage of this changing and developing industry.

AMI Consulting’s study, Plastics Recycling in Europe – capacities, capabilities and future trends published in June 2018, gives an evaluation of current capacity in Europe and volumes of additional capacity required by 2030 by the following polymers PE, PP, PS, PET and PVC. The report includes the current industry situation and forecasts. as well as the volume of recyclate consumed by end use application with an evaluation of future demand, along with a discussion as to whether the industry can absorb the volumes of recyclate that will have to be produced to meet targets.

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