The European Plastics Recyclers (EuPR) association said a jump in plastic shipments from the region into Asia, and particularly China, was a major factor in the severe tightening of the supply of PET bottles for recycling.
The body said the situation is becoming critical for some recycling operations as their input is getting scarce. It warned that unless there was an improvement in the security of supply, Europe faced losing “experience and trained recyclers”.
The amount of plastics arriving at the doors of recycling operations was also decreasing because of such trends as lightweighting and the fact that less bottled water had been consumed over the course of a long European winter, it added.
“In 2009, year-on-year plastics exports to the Far East from the European Union rose by 47 per cent to 3.3 k/t, compared to 2.2 k/t in 2008 – and PET has followed that trend,” Antonio Furfari, of the EuPR, told FoodProductionDaily.com. “If exports continue at current levels we may not have enough supply of food grade rPET in Europe. Converters and suppliers could see supply gaps of rPET for their packaging.”
The EuPR said that favourable exchange rates had boosted demand from Chinese buyers for European exports – with Germany and the UK the countries supplying most material. Last week, UK company Closed Loop Recycling raised concerns over the amount of plastic shipped abroad and called for action from the new Government.
“Leakage of bottles to the Far East is leading to a more unsustainable situation which will affect the converters, brand owners and final users,” cautioned the organisation. “European collection and recycling are the fundamentals of a sustainable recycling system. Thus, long distance exports do not fit in this concept.”
The recycling association called for greater effort throughout all EU countries to collect and recycle plastics – including PET. Performance differs hugely among European countries – with Switzerland recycling around 98 per cent of plastics while Greece only achieved one per cent, said Furfari.