PlasticsEurope, a European plastics industry group, recently announced a 100% recycling goal for plastics by 2020 along with a landfill ban.
It’s a bold objective, especially considering that Europe’s overall recycling and energy recovery rate for plastics was 58% in 2010. Recent statistics show that 16 European countries recycle more than 30% of their plastic packaging waste, but a handful are still recycling at less than 22%.
Ton Emans, president of EuPR, a Brussels-based plastics recycling organization, acknowledged the challenge:
"This target is ambitious but can be achieved with appropriate changes in waste management. For instance, we should have harmonised policies across Europe and should generate well separated streams in order to have quality input for plastics recyclers. These important changes will permit the growth of Europe´s resource efficiency, create a substantial number of jobs and reduce CO2 emissions thanks to the reuse of recycled plastics."
Along with uniform waste policy and enforcement throughout the European Union, Europe would also need infrastructure that makes plastic recycling easy and economically attractive. According to Waste & Recycling News, Jan-Erik Johansson of PlasticsEurope noted the importance of government support for the initiative:
"A common roadblock is access to financing for the infrastructure needed to capture the value in the plastics which is currently disposed in landfill -- estimated to be 8 billion [Euros] per year for the EU27 plus Norway and Switzerland."
PlasticsEurope believes the goal will be difficult, but not impossible. According to the group’s Executive Director, Wilfried Haensel,
"Eliminating landfill in all European countries is far from being an unrealistic goal. Frontrunner countries have reduced landfilling of plastics waste to almost zero, with significant environmental benefits."