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E-scrap plastics recyclers appeal for help

European recyclers of sophisticated plastics used in vehicles and electrical and electronic products are calling for urgent measures to boost the sector, especially as recyclers have been so negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Technical plastics recyclers say they have pioneered the recycling of complex thermoplastics over the last 20 years but often with no or little support to stimulate end-markets. Most are represented by EuRIC, the umbrella organisation for European recycling industries, and the European Electronics Recyclers Association (EERA), a non-profit group promoting the interests of e-scrap recycling companies.

The two groups are making a joint call for action, saying unless urgent measures are taken there will be a reduction in recycling capacity for technical plastics at a time when a scaling up is essential to meet the EU’s sustainable agenda. Such plastics account for around 20% of overall demand.

Stable outlets needed

‘The largest challenge to overcome today in order to boost investments in technical plastics recycling is the development of stable outlets for quality recycled polymers to the automotive and electronics producers,’ they say. ‘This is instrumental both from an industrial perspective to provide the certainty needed by the industry to scale up capacities and, from an environmental viewpoint, to reward greenhouse gas emission and energy savings from recycling.’

Inconsistent regulation

A number of obstacles are said to hinder recycling: insufficient enforcement of collection and sorting requirements; inconsistency of the European regulatory framework; rules framing shipment of plastic waste for recycling in Europe; and the necessity to improve design for recycling.

The bodies say the industry is unanimously calling for:

  • The inclusion, whenever relevant, of recycled content targets in sectorial legislation, such as the ELV or WEEE Directives.
  • Incentives, which can take the form of tradable recycling certificates or tax breaks, to reward GHG savings stemming from recycling and the use of recycled materials in new products alongside the entire (circular) value chain
  • Environmental performance labels along with energy efficiency labels to empower consumers to make informed choices and reward producers using circular plastics. Such labelling would support modulation of fees of EPR schemes incentivising the use of recycled plastics in new products.
  • Support for voluntary commitments with measurable results to boost cooperation along the plastics value chain supplying in the electronics and automotive sectors in key matters such as collection and sorting.

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