A significant increase in imports of PET plastics is threatening the competitiveness of the EU’s industry, according to European recyclers.
In 2021 and 2022, imports of PET doubled reaching 1.9 million tonnes, with India, China and Turkey among the biggest exporters. In 2020, imports represented 23% of the total demand in Europe but it was nearly 30% in 2022. The recyclers’ organisation Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) believes the rise could be explained by heightened demand for rPET in the EU, driven by recycled content targets of 25% for beverage bottles by 2025 and the consequent rise in rPET prices on the continent.
In response to the figures, PRE says: ‘Given the strong divergences in energy, labour and environmental costs in the EU compared to the rest of the world, this important market shift puts the European industry under a lot of pressure.’
Herbert Snell, vice-chair of PRE’s PET working group, points out that in March the European Commission initiated anti-dumping proceedings against China over PET imports. ‘Among the allegations, the issued notice reflects a likelihood that increased dumped imports would have a negative impact on the performance of the EU industry,’ he says.
Casper van den Dungen, vp of PRE, insists the authorities must ensure that rPET brought into the EU at significantly lower prices is compliant with the stringent EU food contact regulation. ‘This will additionally require full verification of the traceability of imported polymers by end users to avoid using self-declarations as the means of reporting recycled materials participating to the EU targets.’
Enforcing EU rules for goods and materials from outside the continent is key to protecting the ‘Made in the EU’ accreditation and maintaining a level playing field, says PRE. ‘Otherwise, the circularity of plastic products placed on the market will be undermined, together with substantial investments in the recycling industry and its capacities.’