Plastic packaging waste statistics 2012

EU 27+2 recycled 5.4m tonnes, 34.7%, of all its plastic packaging waste in 2012, easily surpassing the EU’s minimum target of 22.5%, says the annual report Plastics -The Facts 2012.[pdf, 935kB] This report has been produced in partnership between PlasticsEurope, EuPC, EuPR and EPRO (The Plastic Data Alliance)

Energy recovery hit 34.5% (33.2%). In total 69.2% (66.8 %) of all plastic packaging waste was recovered in 2012, the balance going to landfills and incineration without energy recovery.

The recovery results for packaging of 69.2 % are better than for other plastic applications as the recovery rate for all plastics reached 62.3% (59.3%). Packaging contributes with 62% of all plastic waste, but as much as 82% of all plastics are recycled. Packaging thus lift the average recycling rate for all plastics in Europe, EPRO says.

The recycling rate for plastic packaging rose from 33.6% in 2011 to 34.7% in 2012. This shows the national recycling schemes in Europe, based on extended producer responsibility (EPR), manage well, EPRO says. Each country has normally, either by law or a covenant, fixed national targets for recycling and energy recovery. These regulations are based on the EU directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EU).

Except for Malta all the EU 27+2 countries in 2012 exceeded the EU minimum targets of 22.5% recycling. 19 countries even recycled more than 30%. In 2012 Netherlands ranked on the top with a recycling rate of 50.6% followed by Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, and Estonia.

Regarding energy recovery results there are big differences within Europe. Nine countries energy recovered more than 50% of their plastic packaging waste in 2012 and obtained all a total recovery rate (recycling + energy recovery) above 90%. This means that less than 10% was landfilled in these countries. At the other end of the ranking list, we find a couple of countries that still does not energy recover any plastic waste. Seven countries landfilled more than 50% of their plastic packaging waste, among them UK with 63%.

63% of the post-consumer plastic packaging waste is generated from households, the remaining 37%, comes from the trade/ industry segment. The recycling rate for trade and industry sector reached 37.6%, while recycling for the households segment obtained 33%.

The following EPRO countries include all kinds of plastic packaging in their collection schemes for households: Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, either in a separate plastics fraction or together with other lightweight packaging (yellow bin). In other countries like Austria and UK some parts of the country collect all plastic packaging while other regions concentrate on just rigid plastic packaging. Germany, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have a deposit system for beverage bottles. In Belgium, France and Switzerland the systems focus on rigid plastics (bottles), but France is now making tests in order to expand the scope of the system to comprise all plastic packaging. How to sort, recycle and recover mixed streams of plastic packaging is a main issue for EPRO.

Several EPRO members are also active within the agriculture sector, collecting and recovering agriculture film and rigid plastic packaging waste from farmers.

In 2012 the agriculture sector generated 1.316 m tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste. This equals 5% of all plastic waste generated within EU27+2. In 2012 26.4% (23.5%) of this was recycled, while 28.4% (27.2 %) was energy recovered. This means the rest, 45.2% went to landfill. EPRO wants to contribute to more diversion of agriculture plastic waste from the European landfills.

Since 2011, EPRO established a working group focusing on collection and recovery of plastic waste from the agriculture sector. This expert group exchanges knowledge and best practice among EPRO members and is also networking with other organisations. In 2012 this group started a three- year project on definitions and on this basis develop even better statistics for all kinds of plastics from the agriculture sector in cooperation with APE- Europe and other organizations