Recycling rates of 35 per cent are realistic
Whereas the plastics industry in the 1960s through to the 1980s gave little thought to sensible ways of disposing of or recovering waste plastics, the issue had shifted into the spotlight by 1991 at the latest when the German Packaging Ordinance came into effect. Taking the lead at the time, Germany was the first country to set up rules for the recovery of plastics waste and establish them on the market. In the meantime, many countries in Europe have addressed the issue and developed highly successful strategies for collection and recovery. According to surveys by PlasticsEurope, about 47 million tonnes of plastics were consumed in the 27 countries of the EU plus Switzerland and Norway in 2011, 40 per cent for non-durable and 60 per cent for durable applications. In the same year, some 25 million tonnes of waste plastics were collected, 40 per cent going to landfill and 60 per cent being recovered.
The waste from collection systems for used packages accounted for over 60 per cent of this, followed by products from the construction, automotive and electronics sectors. Exemplary collections systems are in place in nine European countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Luxemburg (listed in descending order) with collection rates ranging from 99 to 92 per cent. At the same time, six of these countries have the highest recycling rates in Europe. Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria with rates of 35 to 26 per cent head the field by a clear margin. The remaining collected wastes are recovered to generate energy by incineration.