Installed capacity for recycling flexible polyolefins in Europe jumped 8% to 2.7 million tonnes between 2018 to 2020, according to research by Plastics Recyclers Europe, which says an additional capacity of 4.3 million tonnes is needed by 2030.
The two-year boost was achieved by around 200 recycling facilities, mostly small to medium plants averaging 10 000 tonnes, with the biggest facilities achieving over 40 000 tonnes. At the same time, PRE says there were improvements in the collection, sorting and recycling of flexible plastics which have led to a growing uptake of recyclates in a wider range of end applications.
Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, and Benelux account for two-thirds of the installed capacity with major growth registered in the countries with larger populations. In addition, the amount of recyclates in 2020 stood at an estimated 1.9 million tonnes, representing 17% of the overall market demand for flexible films. Applications with the highest uptake of recycled material are heavy duty sacks and garbage bags, representing 38% of the total.
‘Legislation will continue to be one of the key enablers of a smooth transition towards a fully circular economy for flexible plastic films,’ says PRE president Ton Emans, who is also chair of the Polyolefin Films Working Group. ‘Moreover, value chain collaboration is imperative and will determine the success of this transition.’
Future market trends will be highly influenced by the proposal for the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation which will be crucial in decoupling recycled polymer prices from virgin and bringing more legal certainty to the industry, according to PRE. ‘Consequently, this will further drive investments in the flexible plastic sector.’
For the industry to achieve its set targets, says PRE, a recycling capacity of seven million tonnes for flexibles will be required by 2030. Turning this ambition into reality requires a holistic approach and continued improvements across all the steps of the value chain with improved design for recycling, collection and sorting efficiencies being key in boosting the supply of high-quality recyclates.