The European plastics industry increased its use of post-consumer recycled content in products by 20 percent last year, to a 10 percent level, but it wants stronger policies from governments supporting chemical recycling to accelerate that.
The head of the trade group Plastics Europe made that argument at an Oct. 20 news conference at K 2022, where the association unveiled its "Plastics — The Facts 2022" report on economic trends.
The group called chemical recycling a key lever, along with more mechanical recycling, for increasing the circularity of plastics, and it stressed that it wanted to see specific legislation supporting chemical recycling to encourage investment.
"There are massive investment announcements, in Europe and globally, and we need to make sure that recognition [of chemical recycling] is there at the European level, in legislation, so the investor security is there, yesterday," said Virginia Janssens, Plastics Europe managing director. "We need it yesterday. … We need that enabling framework to move faster."
As part of that, the group said a regulatory system that accepts mass balance standards, a system for measuring recycled or renewable content within fossil fuel-based feedstocks, is important for chemical recycling.
Janssens also said expanding traditional mechanical recycling is important.
The Brussels-based trade group's report said European plastics products used 10.1 percent recycled content in 2021, or about 5.5 million metric tons, which was a 20 percent increase from the year before. That figure includes recycled-content plastic used in all markets in Europe, including packaging as well as in durable goods like housing, construction and cars.
The report said bio-based plastics made up 2.3 percent of European plastics production in 2021, meaning that 12.4 percent of the total European plastics production is nonfossil fuel-based.
In a news release, the group endorsed the European Union's "aspirational target" of having 20 percent of the continent's plastics come from nonfossil carbon by 2030. By comparison, it said, for the global plastics industry and its 390 million metric tons of production in 2021, 9.8 percent of it came from non-fossil-based sources.