Increased plastics recycling targets could create thousands of additional jobs across Europe and boost the region's economy, according to a new report.
However certain challenges have to be overcome if the benefits of a new recycling regime were to be fully felt, it added.
The report, Increased EU Plastics Recycling Targets Environmental, Economic and Social Impact Assessment, written by consulting firm Deloitte and commissioned by the Brussels-based trade group Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), said increased plastics recycling would have “a reinvigorating effect on European Union employment.”
Nearly 50,000 jobs could be created directly in the recycling value chain of plastics across the region within five years as a result of increasing recycling targets in the EU-28 countries, and more than 75,000 indirect jobs.
This figure rises to 80,000 direct and 120,000 indirect jobs by 2025.
The financial cost — around 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) by 2020 and 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion) by 2025 — could be “reasonably tackled by investments from the EU and other sources,” the report argued.
But it warned: “There are still a few challenges which need to be addressed in order to achieve high recycling in reality.
“Setting high targets is a prerequisite to spur higher recycling performance but would not necessarily lead to increased recycling if existing barriers within the plastics recycling value chain are not successfully overcome.”
The report said the approach used in the determination of future targets “requires increased accountability and transparency in the way data are collected at the output of the recycling process and how the recycling rates and the targets are calculated.
“Ultimately, it will be up to the recyclers to report on the actual amounts of recycled plastics.”
Improved collection facilities were crucial, the report added.
“Taking the packaging waste stream as an example, according to the latest data available by waste stream, 41 percent of the packaging waste currently generated in EU-28 is collected for recycling [separate collection] and about 34 percent is sent to recyclers, leading to only 25 percent actually being recycled.
“The proposed target for packaging waste at the output of recycling is 45 percent. Therefore, an increase of nearly 20 percent in the output recycling rate needs to take place in order to fulfill the target at EU-28 level.”
Recycling capacity also needs to be increased, since EU-28 plants were currently only able to handle around half of the plastic waste collected, the rest being exported, “mostly for economic reasons.”
Finally the report urged that demand for recycled plastic be encouraged if the increased recycling rates are to make any sense.
Certain measures, such as tax incentives for products containing recycled plastics, could be introduced.
The report concluded: “Ultimately, a balance in supply of plastic waste and demand of recycled plastics needs to be established in order to enable a healthy and sustainable recycling sector that can contribute the maximum to fulfilling the increased targets and high expectation of the EU in creating a truly circular economy.”