Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), representing European plastics recyclers, has expressed concern over the rising imports of recycled plastic, which it says threatens the EU industry.  

The organisation, which emphasises the role of recyclers in facilitating the circularity of plastics and the transition towards a circular economy, found that the European plastics recycling sector faced significant destabilisation in 2023. 

This was mainly due to the increasing imports of recycled plastics into the EU, creating an unbalanced market and serious environmental consequences, as well as contributing to the EU’s deindustrialisation and undermining the environmental objectives of the European Green Deal. 

PRE claims the sector’s stability is being compromised by these imports, combined with declining EU competitiveness and a lack of a level playing field. 

PRE said that the objective of the European Commission’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) is to enhance circularity and address EU waste effectively, however, the possibility of non-EU plastic waste contributing to EU targets, without reliable control mechanisms, could harm the market. 

PRE also cited a recent issue brief, based on a circular polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyester system analysis report published by Systemiq in July 2023, which warns of the impact on Europe’s recycling systems. 

The brief indicates that greenhouse gas emissions could more than double by 2040 if investments in EU recycling systems are reduced or halted, as more waste would be incinerated rather than recycled. 

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The study also predicts a significant drop in the PET recycling rate by 2040, threatening the competitiveness of the European industry.  

It is estimated to decline to 32% to 38% by 2040, compared to 67% in the circular scenario. 

PRE is now urging the EU’s institutions to introduce safeguards to support the industry and the transition to a circular economy. 

In December 2023, PRE released a new manifesto, urging the EU to implement the required changes and policies to achieve ‘genuine’ plastics circularity.