Europe's plastic recycling industry ‘shuts down’ due to coronavirus

The closure of processing facilities and record low prices of virgin plastics brought about by the coronavirus have led to the recycling industry “closing production” in Europe, according to a trade body.

Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) yesterday said that if left unchecked, the current situation would make recycling unprofitable and lead to the mass landfilling of recyclable waste.

Ton Emans, PRE president, said: “If the situation is to persist and no actions are taken to remedy the sector, plastics recycling will cease to be profitable, hampering the attainment of the EU recycling targets and putting in jeopardy the transition towards circular plastics.

“In such a case, recyclable plastic waste will have no alternative but to be sent to landfill or incineration,” he added.

For this reason, PRE called on the European Commission to include recycling as one of the sectors supported by its recovery plans and “to continue implementing the measures under the circular economy umbrella”, said Emans.

The announcement came in the same week the global trade organisation the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) said that there remains “a feeling of uncertainty” within Europe’s plastics recycling industry.

In a statement on Tuesday, the BIR said: “Prices are still low owing to the oil price slump and huge stocks are overhanging the market.

“European plastics recyclers obviously have little idea themselves how supply - and thus the entire pricing structure - will develop in the coming weeks.”

However, the BIR said “there are some glimmers of hope” because companies in Europe are being allowed to restart production “with the cancelling of some lockdown restrictions and demand is slowly increasing”.

Follow-up: PRE press release, BIR press release

A version of this story first appeared on ENDS Europe's sister site ENDS Report.

European Green Deal

Latest news, analysis and insights on the flagship plan to decarbonise Europe by 2050


Get the latest on the implications of the coronavirus outbreak for environmental policymaking across the EU

Infringements dashboard

Keep up-to-date with essential information on environment-related infringement proceedings


From ENDS Report

From ENDS Waste
& Bioenergy