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Plastic packaging statistics 2010:
65.9% recovered in 2010 - full diversion from landfill within 2020 possible?

EU27+2 recycled 5.018m tonnes (2009: 4.6m), 32.6% (30.3%) of all its plastic packaging in 2010, easily surpassing the EU’s minimum target of 22.5%, says the annual report Plastics -The Facts 2011. This report has been produced in partnership between PlasticsEurope, EuPC, EuPR and EPRO.

Energy recovery hit 33.3% (30.4%). In total 65.9% (60.7%) of all plastic packaging was recovered in 2010, with 34.1% (39.3%), the balance going to landfills.

The plastics industry (PlasticsEurope) has recently announced an ambition of full diversion from landfill within for 2020; e.g. 100% recovery of all plastic waste. With a total recovery rate of 65.9% for plastic packaging (and 57.9% for all plastics) in 2010 we still have a job to do, EPRO says.

Understanding statistics

The report, released in October 2011, brings analysis of European plastic production, demand and recovery for 2010. The statistics are based on the assumption that the amount of post-consumer plastic waste equal the amount of plastics collected after use. Other statistics might be based on other assumptions, e.g. calculations of generated plastics waste, and thus differ from the results of this study.

The plastics can either be collected as part of the mixed waste or collected separately. What is collected is either recovered or not recovered. Recovered plastic waste is either recycled, mechanical or feedstock (depolymerisation) or energy recovered (incineration with energy recovery or used as an alternative fuel). What is not recovered is disposed at a landfill or incinerated without energy recovery.

The figures comprise the 27 EU members, Norway and Switzerland (EU27+2). Statistics 2010, EPRO, 31st October 2011 2

Overall statistics of plastics

In terms of overall plastics ‘recovery’, 57.9% (54.3%) of post-consumer used plastics in Europe (EU27+2) were recovered in 2010, with the remaining going to disposal. Of the 59.1% recovered, 6.0m (5.5m) tonnes were recycled – as material and feedstock – and 8.3m (7.6m) tonnes were recovered as energy. This equals a recycling rate of 24.1% (22.8%) and an energy recovery rate of 33.8% (31.5%)

Global production of plastics hit 265m tonnes in 2010 (230m tonnes) an increase of 6.5% from the year before. In Europe the production increased to 57m tonnes (55m tonnes); this equals a 21.5% share of world production, while China has now reached 23.5%. The demand from European converters increased by 4.5% to 46.4m tonnes.

While the demand from European converters amounted to 46.4m tonnes (45m), the post- consumer plastic waste totalled 24.7m tonnes (24.4m). The difference is partly explained by the fact that many plastic applications have a long life. Several plastic products made in 2010 will thus end up as waste some day in the future, while plastic packaging normally ends up as waste the same year. The post consumer plastic waste equals 48.3 kg/capita (47.7kg/capita). The generated waste figures range from 22 kg/capita in Romania to 67kg/capita in Ireland.

The recovery of plastics is close to 100% in some European countries. The following nine countries recovered more than 90% of their post-consumer plastic waste: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway and Luxembourg. The first five countries surpassed even 95%. Five countries recovered less than 20% with Malta at the bottom with 10%. Malta and some other countries have still none or limited energy recovery solutions, while some member states in the north have overcapacity on energy recovery.

Malta and 14 other countries still landfill more than 60% of their post consumer plastic waste. This group of nations includes also Spain and UK, both with very low energy recovery rates of just 17% and 8% and thus a rather high degree of landfill - 60% and 69% of their plastic waste. Italy landfilled 49% and France 42% of their plastic waste. These four large countries have a long way to go in order to obtain full diversion within 2020.

In order to speed up the diversion from landfill, bans and landfill taxes might be useful tools in several countries. Still many nations operate with very low prices on landfill and are therefore slowing down the much needed diversion process to better recovery options, EPRO says.

Plastic packaging statistics

Packaging remains the biggest end-use for plastics, 39% (40%), followed by construction 21% (20%), automobile 8% (7%) and electrical and electronics 6% (6%). Other applications, including medical and leisure, account for 27% (27%). Statistics 2010, EPRO, 31st October 2011 3

Packaging contributes with 15.4m tonnes (15.3m) or about 62.2 % (62.5%) of end - life quantity of plastics and as much as 84% (85%) of all plastics recycled. Packaging thus lifted the average recycling rate for all plastics in Europe, EPRO says.

The recycling rate for plastic packaging rose from 30.3% in 2009 to 32.6% in 2010. This shows that the national recycling schemes in Europe, based on extended producer responsibility, manage well, EPRO says. Each country has normally, either by law or a covenant, fixed national targets for recycling and energy recovery. These regulations are based on the EU directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EU).

The following 16 nations recycled more than 30% of its plastic packaging waste in 2010: Sweden (46.5%), Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Belgium, Austria, Norway, Netherlands, Slovakia, Switzerland, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia, Poland, UK and Lithuania. At the other end of the list we find Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Greece and Malta (14.5%) recycling less than 22.5% of their post- consumer plastic packaging. The following countries increased their recycling ratios the most during 2010: Norway, Greece, Romania, UK, Sweden and Ireland. Austria and Germany and Switzerland showed decreased recycling ratios.

Germany recycled 1.1m tonnes of its post- consumer packaging waste in 2010, or 21% of all plastic packaging recycling in Europe. Italy and UK recycled 0.7m tonnes, France 0.5m tonnes and Spain recycled about 0.4m tonnes each. Together these five countries recycled 3.4m tonnes plastic packaging in 2010 almost 70% of plastic packaging recycled within EU27+2.

63% of the post- consumer plastic packaging waste is generated from the households, the remaining 37%, comes from the trade/ industry (incl. agriculture) segment. The households contributed by 57%, trade and industry by 43% to the total amount plastic packaging recycled. While 29.8% (26.5%) of all plastic packaging from households were recycled in 2009, the recycling rate for the trade and industry segment amounted to 37.5% (36.4%). More efforts within the household sector explain the faster growth within this market segment.

National results within the two market segments might differ between the countries due to rather different national legislation and policies. Denmark is one of the best countries within trade and industry, recycling as much as 61%. In contrast Denmark is placed last within the household segment, recycling just 9.3%. Denmark has no national extended producer responsibility system for collection plastics, except a deposit scheme for PET beverage bottles.

The recycling statistics referred to in this report are not divided according to polymers or plastic packaging applications. PET, HDPE and PP are probably showing the highest recycling rates within plastic packaging from households. In countries also collecting the film from households, LDPE is often the main fraction recycled.

The following EPRO countries include all kinds of plastic packaging in their household collection schemes: Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain and Italy, either in a separate plastics fraction or together with other light packaging (yellow bin). In other countries like Austria and UK some parts of the country collect all plastic packaging while other regions concentrate on just rigid plastic packaging (plastic bottles). Germany, Finland, Iceland, Statistics 2010, EPRO, 31st October 2011 4

Norway and Sweden are among countries having a deposit system for beverage bottles, in addition to the general household collection scheme for plastic packaging. In France the system has so far focused on rigid plastics (bottles), but French households sort out some flexible plastics as well. France now plans to expand the scope of the system to comprise all plastic packaging. The new expanded system is about to be tested out in France. How to sort, recycle and recover such a mixed stream of plastic packaging is a main issue for EPRO.

Plastics from agriculture

Several EPRO members are also active within the agriculture sector. In 2011 EPRO established a working group focusing on collection and recovery of plastics from this sector.

In 2010 the agriculture generated 1.275m tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste. This equals 5.2% of all plastic waste generated within EU27+2. In 2010 23% (22%) of this waste was recycled, while 26.5% (25.7%) was energy recovered. This means 50.5% went to landfill.

More efforts are needed to improve the results within agriculture. Countries lagging behind might learn from EPRO members and other countries with established national take back schemes, either as separate agriculture systems or integrated with the packaging take back schemes.

Outlook 2011-2012

A further growth of 2 – 2.5% for plastic waste generation is expected for 2011. EPRO expect to see a similar growth for plastic packaging waste.

For packaging we can expect higher recovery rates. Recycling is expected to continue to increase, but still with a significant part of the quantities being exported for reprocessing in the Far East.

Recycling of plastic packaging is stimulated by increased collection within the household sector in some European countries. The scope of plastic packaging collected is expected to increase in some member states too, e.g. bottle collection systems are expanded to comprise other packaging like other rigid and flexible packaging (film). Better sorting of this material in huge advanced industrial plants might also, in the years to come increase the volumes sorted for recycling. Bans on landfill and increasing landfill taxes, like those in UK, might speed up the diversion from landfill and stimulate both energy recovery and recycling of plastics. However further regional overcapacities and lower gate fees at the incineration plants in northern countries and an increased demand for Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) might reduce the growth of materials sorted out and delivered to recyclers.

The impact of the Waste framework directive and the EU resource strategy on the recovery of plastic packaging is still unclear. However, some countries are about to review Statistics 2010, EPRO, 31st October 2011 5

their waste legislation which may include higher targets and new requirements for the recovery of plastic packaging.

In order to boost recycling further, new applications and markets for recycled material should be developed and the shipment of used plastics within Europe should be eased in order to develop a sound European recycling market.

Better packaging design, with improved recyclability together with greener private and public procurement will aid in increased demand for recycled products, in turn stimulating plastics recycling.

EPRO will continue its work for better design for recycling, partly through the European PET Bottle Platform, EPBP and it’s endorsement of key plastics packaging design guidance (www.petbottleplatform.eu/). EPRO will also promote the idea of recycling of plastics and recycled products. The annual EPRO Best Recycled Product Award is an important part of this work.

A recovery rate of 100% in 2020 for both plastic packaging and all other plastic waste is still possible; it is all about willingness and working together across the plastics supply chain to set the scene and move the agenda forward, EPRO says.

A strategy of 100% recovery of plastic waste might also contribute to an economic recovery of Europe and thus more jobs, concludes EPRO.

The report "Plastics- The facts 2011" might be downloaded from www.epro-plasticsrecycling.org and you can read more about our valued EPRO members.

Peter Sundt

Secretary General

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