Plastic recycling in Europe is at a critical juncture. With the increasing global awareness of the environmental impact of plastic waste, Europe has taken significant strides to address this pressing issue. The continent is home to some of the most advanced plastic recycling technologies and practices in the world, making it a leader in this field.
In 2020, each person living in the European Union generated an average of 34.6 kg of plastic packaging waste, out of which 13.0 kg were recycled1. This represents a significant increase in both the volume of plastic packaging waste and the amount recycled over the past decade1. However, despite the progress, there is still a long way to go. Stricter rules for reporting recycling entered into force in 2020, resulting in a provisional decrease of 3 percentage points in plastic recycling (from 41% in 2019 to an estimated 38% in 2020)1.
The current state of plastic recycling in Europe is characterized by a mix of advanced recycling technologies, regulatory support, and increasing consumer awareness. Mechanical recycling, which involves the separation, cleaning, and grinding of plastic waste to generate new products, is the most common method used2. However, new and innovative methods, such as chemical recycling, are emerging and hold great promise for the future3.
Despite these advancements, the industry faces several challenges. These include a lack of product standardization, volatile customer demand, and inefficient sortation processes4. Overcoming these obstacles is crucial for the future growth and success of the plastic recycling industry in Europe.
In conclusion, the current state of plastic recycling in Europe is a dynamic and evolving landscape. With the right mix of technology, policy support, and consumer participation, Europe has the potential to significantly advance its plastic recycling efforts and set a global benchmark in this field.