Term recycling refers to any recovery operation through which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances for their original or other purposes. Recycling itself comprises of different processes.
Consult the factsheets, in the downloads section, to learn more about the recycling processes of different plastic types.
Plastics’ unique properties – strength, rigidity, flexibility, affordability and durability – make them a perfect substitute for other materials which is why they are widely used across numerous sectors. Large-scale production of plastics started relatively late, around 1950s; however, since then tonnes of plastic waste has been generated and most of it has been discharged into the natural environment.
Recycling preserves the above-mentioned utility properties of plastics and in addition limits the impacts that the plastics waste poses on the environment.
Emphasis needs to be made on eco-design of plastic products, successful collections schemes and innovative, efficient recycling processes that can cut energy consumption. Following these steps, we can create a circular economy and virtually eliminate the plastics waste polluting our environment.
Head to the Your contribution counts. Let’s recycle! section to learn more on how your efforts can help.
The plastic industry is an important sector of the European economy. The European plastics demand reached 49 million tonnes in 2015 (Plastics Europe), with packaging, building and construction, and automotive markets being the most dominant ones for plastics.
The biggest source of plastic waste remains packaging and consequently the most plastics waste that is currently recycled comes from this stream (more than 80% of total recycled plastics in 2016, Plastics Europe).
In 2014, out of the 25.8 Mt of plastics waste collected, 7.66 Mt were recycled and 10.2 Mt were incinerated. Recycling and energy recovery rates are increasing, while the share of plastic waste going to landfills is decreasing:
- Collected for recycling: 26,3% (2012) vs. 29.7% (2014)
- Energy recovery: 35.8% (2012) vs. 39.5% (2014)
- Landfill: 38.1% (2012) vs. 30.8% (2014)
The market structure of plastics value chain involves raw material producers, machine manufacturers, plastics compounders, plastics converters, brand owners, products distributors, consumers and plastics end-of-life businesses (including plastics recyclers). Most companies focus on one area of activity, though some larger players are involved in several steps.