The research group “Investigate Europe” published a comprehensive study on plastic recycling on 27 April 2023. According to this research, the EU is falling significantly short of the targets it has set itself. In other words, the recycling promise remains largely unfulfilled.

„From yoghurt pots and milk cartons to shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes, Europeans produce an average of 35kg of plastic packaging waste each per year. And the trend is rising. According to the OECD, plastic consumption will triple by 2060.“ This research, produced by Investigate Europe, says.

Actually, the European Union wants to recycle plastic. In principle, plastic is a material that can be easily recycled. But in fact, as this research by Investigate Europe has revealed, only about 40 per cent of the plastic used in the EU is recycled. The rest is either exported to countries outside the EU or incinerated within the EU. In addition, a significant amount of plastic waste ends up in the oceans.

The research is rich in facts and describes the ” waste disposal routes” of plastic waste. It also shows why the recycling politically intended by the EU does not work in practice. Among other things, this has to do with the fact that privately operated waste incineration plants conclude long-term contracts with municipalities, in which the municipalities have to commit to delivering minimum quantities of waste so that the waste incineration plants are profitable for the private operators. This then also means that waste management on a private profit-oriented basis does not work. At least not if the goal is to recycle plastic.

The research clearly shows that the solution to this problem – which, according to experts, will increase significantly in the next few years because the consumption of plastic is growing exponentially – is complex but also urgent. Without intelligent political regulation, the problem will hardly be solved. Whether it will come to that – one can certainly develop doubts about that.

In addition to the English version, this research is also available in German, Italian and French.

Link to the report

Featured image: Ikhlasul Amal CC BY-NC 2.0 via FlickR

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