Last reviewed 19 May 2020

Plastics reprocessing facilities in Europe are “closing production” due to lack of demand and record low prices of virgin plastics caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to trade body, Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE).

Ton Emans, PRE President commented, “if the situation is to persist and no actions are taken to remedy the sector, plastics recycling will cease to be profitable, hampering the attainment of the EU recycling targets and putting in jeopardy the transition towards circular plastics”.

The UK waste plastics exports to European countries such as Spain, Poland, Germany, France and the Netherlands have increased in recent years following China’s ban on plastics waste imports.

PRE claims that further damage to the recycling market would have far-reaching socio-economic impacts, due to the extensive employment in the waste management value chain, and is calling on the EU and the Member States to include recycling as one of the sectors supported by their Recovery Plans.

Additional measures to promote a Circular Economy also need to be implemented; PRE say to reduce the use of virgin plastics in Europe and ensure the survival of the secondary raw materials market as well as further investments in the sector.

A separate report published by UK plastics recycling group RECOUP, argues that the country’s infrastructure to sort and reprocess plastic packaging to the required quality also needs to increase. Research carried out by the group found there are significant shortfalls in reprocessing capacity, with specific operational and technical challenges around reprocessing plastic film, non-bottle PET and food grade packaging.

Steve Morgan, Policy & Infrastructure Manager at RECOUP, said the UK producer responsibility system needs reforming with a shift towards more domestic recycling. “To deliver the infrastructure to meet a recycled content target, reforming the UK Packaging Producer Responsibility System is essential in order to provide the underpinning foundations and ensure the necessary investment and confidence are in place to help the UK deliver a sustainable business model to build and maintain the required recycling infrastructure for plastic packaging,” Morgan added.