Plastic recycling in the European Union
The production of conventional, fossil-fuel-based plastic has increased exponentially since its invention at the beginning of the 20th century. Undoubtedly, the plastic played a significant role in global economic recovery and consequent expansion after WWII. On the other hand, this also led to a change in habits, overconsumption, and many environmental issues. We try to offset these issues is by recycling. Let’s have a closer look at the reality of plastic recycling in the European Union.
In 2018 in the European Union, plastics production almost reached 62 million tonnes. The most common method of plastic waste treatment is incineration, also called energy recovery (42%), and the least common way is sending plastic to the landfills 26%. The average plastic recycling rate in the EU member states was around 32%, with countries like Ireland, Luxembourg, and Estonia leading the charts with rates higher than 50%, and countries like Croatia, Bulgaria, and Greece with the rates lower than 20%.
81% of all plastic recycling of the EU is currently done inside the EU, and less than 20% is exported. The good news is that from 2006 the amount of plastic sent to recycling has doubled, but the European Union has high hopes to improve even more.
That is why in January 2018 European Union adopted European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. This plan includes initiatives in all the stages of every product’s life cycle: design, production, consumption, and waste management. This will include many improvements and redesigns of the whole plastic recycling system.
This plan sets many visions for 2030 that among other goals include recycling-specific policies:
- Increase the recycling rate from less than 26% to more than 50%.
- A fourfold increase in recycling capacities and the creation of 200.000 recycling jobs across all Europe.
- Involve producers in recycling processes, so they only produce materials that are easily recycled.
- Increase the market for recycled and alternative plastics
- Make sure that all plastic packaging is recyclable or reusable.
This whole strategy is aimed to protect the environment, reduce waste in the oceans, diminish greenhouse gas emissions, and the dependence of the EU on imported fossil fuels.