Europe's installed capacity for recycling flexible polyethylene has been increasing significantly over the last years, according to the figures from Plastics Recycling Europe (PRE).
According to PRE, since 2015, the installed capacity for recycling flexible PE has grown approximately from 1.5 million metric tons per year to 2.3 million tonnes per year.
With an extrusion capacity of 7.4 million tonnes for flexible PE, the EU recycling rate for the materials is roughly 31 percent, PRE said Feb. 13.
In an analysis of 174 plastics recyclers across Europe, five countries — Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland and France — contribute to the most to PE recycling in the continent.
Spain with 18 percent of the total recycling capacity, topped the list, closely followed by Germany at 17 percent, Italy at 13 percent, Poland at 10 percent and France 6 percent. The five countries, according to PRE, represent nearly two-thirds of the installed recycling capacity across the continent.
In terms of sources of the flexible PE plastics waste, commercial and retailer waste contributed 43 percent, followed by "production waste," agriculture waste and household packaging.
Commenting on the figures, Ton Emans, PRE president and chairman of the PE working group, said the plastics recycling sector had been very dynamic in Europe in the last few years.
According to Emans, Europe's Circular Economy Package and the Plastics Strategy as well as China's ban on waste imports have driven investments in sorting and recycling plants.
“The Plastics Strategy of the Commission and the Chinese import ban have already a positive impact as we see an acceleration of new projects across Europe,” he said.
This is especially the case for household flexible plastics waste, according to Emans.
While the latest technological developments enable efficient sorting, washing, extrusion and filtering of the plastics, Emans pointed out that much effort was still needed in terms of “design for recycling.”
“Multilayers materials remain unrecyclable and thus there is a need to move to monomaterial alternatives which can be recycled. This will enable further developments in recycling of flexible plastics in Europe,” he added.