The method used to calculate the proportion of materials that are recycled in Europe is flawed, according to a waste management expert with the European Commission.
Helmut Maurer said that recycling figures were based on material collected from businesses and households for recycling rather than how much of these materials were correctly processed.
Speaking at the British Plastic Federation’s ‘Recycling the Unrecyclable’ event in London, Maurer said: “What counts is how much of that recycled material actually re-enters production.
“We have to take into account how much is actually recycled when large quantities are being shipped to China.
“For 10 years, China has been the biggest market for recycled plastic. Maybe a lot of that plastic is properly recycled but a lot of that material is later dumped, or badly recycled, or toxic materials are repurposed for food applications and then re-shipped to Europe.”
He also said that plastics that are toxic or unrecyclable should be banned in favour of those that can be recycled.
Maurer told MRW that intelligent product design was the most effective way to improve resource efficiency and the proportion of plastics that are reprocessed.
He believes that manufacturers need to be compelled through legislation to use materials that are easy to separate and recycle once a product has reached the end of its lifespan.
Maurer has previously criticised the quantity of plastics being sent to incineration in Europe.
The use of incineration to process this material fails to recoup the majority of the energy used in the manufacturing process for plastic, he said.
- MRW was the media partner for the event