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Plastic packaging recycling rates beat EU target

Plastic packaging recycling levels have easily surpassed the EU’s minimum target in all its member states – in most cases by a substantial amount, the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations (EPRO) has said.

Its statistics for 2016 – covering the EU plus Canada and South Africa – showed 6.8 million tonnes was recycled out of a 16.7 million tonnes total of plastic packaging, a performance it noted was “easily surpassing the EU’s minimum target of 22.5%”.

This meant the recycling rate for the material increased from 39.5% in 2014 to 40.9% in 2016, which EPRO said showed that national schemes based on extended producer responsibility had managed well.

All countries reported exceeded the EU minimum target of 22.5% recycling and 26 of them recycled more than 30%, with 15 exceeding 40%.

Stuart Foster, chief executive of EPRO’s UK member Recoup, said: “There is unparalleled interest and focus on plastic packaging resource management at the moment.

“These statistics are fundamental in understanding the current position across Europe and possible ways forwards around household, commercial and agricultural sector plastic packaging recycling.”

EPRO’s figures showed that 64% of the post-consumer plastic packaging waste was generated from households and 36% from trade and industry.

The trade and industry sector achieved a better recycling rate, at 46.5% (42.8% in 2014), against 37.8% from households (37.7% in 2014).

Nine member countries included all kinds of plastic packaging in their household collection schemes: Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, while in Austria and the UK the types of plastic collected varied regionally.

Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden all had a deposit system for most drinks bottles, while in Belgium, France and Switzerland, the focus was on collecting rigid plastic bottles.

EPRO also found that energy recovery hit 38.8% in 2016 against 38.5% in 2014.

In total, 79.7% of all plastic packaging waste was recovered in 2016 against a 2014 rate of 78.0%, with the remaining 3.4 million tonnes going to landfill.

It noted that the recycling rate for plastic packaging of 40.9% was better than that for plastics of all kinds, which was only 31.1% in 2016.

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