Plastics Europe, the European association of plastic producers, has published the second edition of its report, The Circular Economy for Plastics: A European Overview.
The 2022 edition report is a contribution towards a better understanding of the circular economy of plastics. It details the flow of plastics in Europe, specifically production, processing, consumption, waste management, recycling and the use of reclaimed plastics in 2020.
Plastics are crucial components of a circular and climate neutral economy. Their durability, resource and energy efficiency, and recyclability facilitate the circularity of products and a climate neutral society.
To continue fueling this dynamic, current challenges around plastic products, design, collection and end-of-life management must be addressed.
It is therefore necessary to develop an appropriate waste management infrastructure, combined with policy incentives and business models.
The plastic industry is striving to transform the traditional linear economy into a plastic circular economy.
The scope of the study focused on postconsumer plastics. Since 2016, the amount of plastic waste sent to recycling across Europe has more than doubled, while the amount sent to landfill has been reduced to almost 50%.
Progress so far
The 2020 data show that production of postconsumer recycled plastics increased 12% versus 2018, and their use rose 15% to 4.6 million tonnes. The amount of plastic waste sent to recycling facilities grew up to 8%, reaching a recycling rate of 35%.
However, 65% of plastic waste still ended up in landfills or was incinerated across Europe.
Focus on packaging
For plastic packaging, the report indicated the recycling rate for Europe was 46%, up from 42% in 2018. In the same time, the amount of reclaimed material used in plastic packaging increased 43%.
Moreover, the report highlights the data gap between plastic consumption and waste-collection figures. This is explained, in part, by durable plastic products still in use.
Although the trend towards a circular economy has yet to be intensified to achieve medium and long-term goals, the producers’ association concluded that the European plastics industry is headed in the right direction.