Is European recycling up to the plastic waste challenge?

This is the concluding article in a three-part series exploring oil, plastics demand and sustainability. European governments and corporates are setting ambitious goals on plastics recycling, but there are practical and economic hurdles to get over if the policies are to be a success. Not only do some countries’ domestic markets lag behind, but there is a general reliance on material from countries such as Germany and the Netherlands where more inroads have been made to cope with high levels of demand. So what are the key challenges that European countries need to overcome for their recycling aims to be realised? Lackluster recycling rates Collection rates are the biggest concern. This is the amount of plastic waste that is placed into the recycling stream by consumers. The collected plastic is processed into post-consumer bales, which become the feedstock for recyclers. It is in this most important factor that disparity is seen between European countries. Germany, Scandinavia and the Netherlands enjoy higher collection rates, chiefly because they have effective consumer deposit return schemes that have been running for decades in many cases. A deposit return scheme works because it gives a financial incentive to consumers to recycle their plastic bottle, thus… continue reading

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