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Urgent actions required to protect the European recycling industry from unfair competition linked to massive imports of plastics labelled as “recycled"

15 February 2024

EuRIC’s Call to EU Policy-Makers on Plastics Recycling

The European plastics recycling industry is vital for achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal. By turning plastics waste into recyclates, Europe-based plastics recycling industry directly contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of plastics, decreasing Europe’s reliance on oil imports, boosting circularity, and providing traceable and environmentally sound solutions for plastic waste generated in Europe.

Recycled content targets for plastic packaging have been instrumental over the last years in pulling the demand for recycled plastics and support these objectives. They have sent a powerful signal to recycling companies to invest in new plants capable of meeting the domestic demand for high-quality recycled plastics used in packaging.

However, the uncontrolled increase of imports of cheap plastics, both virgin and plastics labelled as recycled, is severely damaging plastics recycling in Europe. These plastics, imported mainly from Asia, are processed under conditions that do not meet EU standards, in countries where there are no pull measures to boost circularity of materials. Imported plastics do not contribute to EU circularity goals, as they are not produced from EU plastics waste and come from countries that have not implemented similar circularity targets.

As a result, the prices of recyclates dropped significantly, by up to 50% in 2023, with market signals showing no sign of recovery in 2024. Consequently, European plastics recycling companies, despite having invested hundreds of millions of euros to meet circularity goals, are now forced to operate well-below their production capacity. This has led to an increase in the implementation of temporary unemployment schemes