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Plastics are composed of polymers i.e., compounds made of many small molecules. In most cases, plastics are derived from oil. Common types of plastic include:

  • PET (Polyethylene Terephtalate) a highly recyclable material typically found in plastic bottles and clothing;
  • HDPE (High-density Polyethylene) a softer material with high resistance commonly used in plastic bags and toys;
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) a rigid plastic that is highly resistant to corrosion and frequently used in cosmetic packaging and cables;
  • LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene) a soft, flexible plastic often used as food wrapping;
  • PP (Polypropylene) commonly found in food packaging such as butter or yoghurt containers and plant pots; and
  • PS (Polystyrene) and EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) often used for meat trays and plastic foam cups and plates.

In 2020, more than 10 million tonnes of post-consumer plastics waste were sent for recycling in Europe. In 2020, only 35% of post-consumer plastics were recycled, while 42% of post-consumer plastics were used for energy and 23% were landfilled. For plastic packaging, the recycling rate reached 46% in 2020 – representing a 9.5% increase since 2018 – while 37% were used for energy and 17% were landfilled. Recycling is crucial for transitioning away from a linear economy and closing the loop of the circular economy by reintroducing high-quality recycled plastics into new products. EuRIC advocates for a favourable policy framework that stimulates a circular economy for plastics that includes:

  • mandatory recycled content targets to stimulate plastic recycling demand;
  • improved collection of plastics that meet the needs of state-of-the-art technologies;
  • restricting exports of plastic waste;
  • developing criteria to ensure that products are designed for mechanical recycling i.e., where the chemical structure; of the plastic does not need to be altered. Enhance the interface between waste and chemical legislation; and
  • contributing to the work on EU standardisation.

Related EuRIC branch