September/October 2019

The legal framework for providing visibility to the plastics recycling industries is growing step by step. After the initial big advances at European level, each country has been putting in place the basis for major recycled resins usage: a higher collection rate for plastics wastes and mandatory recycled content in packaging and other items. Significant recent progress has been made, for example, in France, the UK, Portugal and Denmark.

Outside of Europe, media pressure is also very significant and some initiatives merit underlining: the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia have reacted to plastics imports from Western countries; while India’s state of Maharashtra launched a ban on all single-use plastics in June, but has created a lot of exemptions. In the event, all brands using plastics packaging in this state quickly set up systems to collect the plastics waste, especially the flexible packaging that had not previously been collected separately.  

Given the decline in virgin resin prices over the last 12 months, especially for PET, plastics recyclers are not so optimistic in their short-term view. As there is not enough plastics waste collected in Europe and Asia, the feedstock of wastes is still expensive but prices of recycled resins are decreasing, except for those of higher quality.

However, there is a strong demand for high-quality recycled resins from post-consumer wastes. To meet this demand, recyclers must invest in increasing the quality they produce, especially in terms of colour and odour.

Owing to this strong demand for very high-quality post-consumer resins, chemical recycling is the new hot topic - especially for petrochemical companies. Following Sabic’s announcement of a project in the Netherlands, BASF and Petronas have also confirmed their desire to develop chemical recycling projects. Most virgin resin producers are conducting work in this field but they still have to demonstrate viability in terms of economics and industrial scale-up.

Clément Lefebvre - Clément Lefebvre (France)

Clément Lefebvre

Veolia Propreté France Recycling (FRA), Board Member of the BIR Plastics Committee

September/October 2019