The European region recycled 29 percent of all its plastics packaging in 2008, easily surpassing the European Union's target of 22.5 percent, according to a new report.
The report was a collaboration of four European trade organizations: PlasticsEurope, European Plastics Converters, European Plastics Recyclers, and the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organizations (EPRO).
According to the report, 10 of the EU member states Germany, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands and Slovenia recycled more than 30 percent of their plastic packaging. Greece, Lithuania and Malta, on the other hand, recycled only about 10 percent.
The report praises several valuable recycling initiatives taking place in Europe, including the PVC industry's Vinyl 2010 program, as well as schemes to sort mixed packaging plastics.
In terms of plastics recovery, 51.3 percent of post-consumer plastic in Europe was recovered in 2008, with the rest going to disposal.
Of the 51.3 percent recovered, 5.3 million metric tons (11.7 billion pounds) were recycled as material and feedstock and 7.5 million metric tons (16.5 billion pounds) were recovered as energy, according to the report.
We distinguish between recycling and energy recovery, said EPRO general secretary Peter Sundt. But it all counts as recovery of plastics as long as it is not incineration without energy recovery.
The report also says that, despite 3 percent annual growth in post-consumer waste over the past decade, the amount of waste sent to landfills has remained stable.
According to EPRO, Europe's success in recycling plastic packaging came even though the industry was struggling to survive the economic recession.
Global production fell to 245 million metric tons (540 billion pounds) in 2008 from 260 million metric tons the year before, with demand from European processors dropping 7.5 percent to 48.5 million metric tons (10.7 billion pounds).
In Europe, Germany is the major producer of plastics, accounting for 7.5 percent of global production, followed by Benelux (4.5 percent), France (3 percent), Italy (2 percent) and the United Kingdom (1.5 percent) and Spain (1.5 percent).
Packaging remains the biggest end-use market for plastics (38 percent), followed by construction (28 percent), auto (7 percent), electrical and electronic (6 percent). Other applications, including medical and leisure, account for 28 percent, according to the report.
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