Plastic recycling boosted by legislative targets
recovery of plastics in the bloc is growing steadily, according to
a new report by Applied Market Information (AMI).
The report provides an insight into the tactics of companies who supply recycling services to manufacturers, especially the drinks sector, where a growing proportion of waste consists of plastic beverage containers.
New requirements set by the European Commission last year roughly double packaging recycling targets for the bloc's 25 members. They will put extra cost pressures on the food industry. More and more food and drink products are being packaging in plastic, and especially PET, due to its lighter weight and convenience in comparison to glass.
Germany has the largest number of plastics recycling plants in Europe. About 21.4 per cent of the plastics recycling plants in the EU are based in Germany. Another 14.3 per cent are based in the UK, 13 per cent in Italy, 8.9 per cent in France and 7.6 per cent in Spain, according to AMI.
Some companies primarily act as toll recyclers for industrial clients. Others concentrate on recycling many different materials of which plastics is just one. Others use recycled materials as a raw material from which to manufacture other raw materials or finished products.
The survey of 1,000 companies indicates that the most important source of raw materials for recyclers is the industrial market. About 90 per cent of companies source materials from this sector. Less than 10 per cent is from the agricultural sector.
Around 30 per cent of the companies in the sector recycle commercial or post-consumer household waste.
As it is much easier to recycle plastics when the material is in clean condition and pre-sorted into the different types of plastics, the bulk of companies take clean uncontaminated waste.
About 40 per cent are also able to use supplies of soiled mixed waste. About 13 per cent of companies are able to handle wet plastics waste.
"On the one hand legislative pressure within Europe is leading to increased pressure to increase the recycling of waste materials and especially plastics," AMI noted. "There have been many recycling initiatives by both central and local governments within Europe which are committed to seeing ever higher levels of waste recovery and a decrease in the amount of waste materials being consigned to landfill sites. Commercial operations too naturally want to recycle plastics waste to re-use it and cut down on the cost of buying virgin polymer."
Europe's largest recycling company is the Ravago group, which is estimated to reprocess in excess of 200,000 tonnes/year of waste at plants in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
European polyethylene terephthalate (PET) collection recycling rates reached 796,000 tonnes in 2005, a 15.1 per cent increase over the previous year, according to Petcore, a trade association.