The recycling systems which process our unwanted waste lie at the heart of the circular economy, but what is their outlook?
In a first of its kind, the online ETH Global Recycling Survey 2020, took answers from over 150 companies and industry experts from 38 countries, and examines the industry’s current state of affairs and future expectations.
Impact on the recycling industry
In the next five years, upcoming legislation is expected to have the biggest impact on the industry. They hope for an active engagement of policy makers, though confidence is low.
The EU has already put several recycling and recycled content targets in place.
Although half of recyclers believe that targets for recycled plastic content for bottles will be met, they remain sceptical about achieving EU plastic packaging recycling quotas.
Investment in processing mixed waste
To meet targets, more investments are needed in mixed waste processing, of mostly lower quality plastics.
Currently almost all recyclers receive their waste pre-sorted, with half relying on imports to obtain the required quality.
This demonstrates that the market for low quality recyclates is still underdeveloped.
More than half of recyclers, especially those from emerging markets export their recyclate to other countries.
Innovations in recycling
Regarding the potential of upcoming technological innovations, most recyclers remain uncertain, especially when it comes to biodegradable and bio-compostable packaging. 61% believe that track and trace mechanisms will have some impact on the industry, though many are on the fence.
Overall, the recyclers find themselves in a bit of a dilemma. They believe they will be hardest hit by industry developments in the next years, but alongside brand owners have the most important role to play in achieving circular plastics.
The ETH Global Recycling Survey 2020 was released on 11th December 2020.