Increased EU Plastics Recycling Targets:
Environmental, Economic and Social Impact Assessment
Plastics are valuable materials serving multiple functions in our everyday lives. However, currently only 26% of plastic waste is recycled in EU-28. For this reason, the European Commission put forward proposals for increasing the targets of plastic recycling. In this context, the present study highlights the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of increased plastic recycling in EU-28, according to proposed plastic recycling targets for 2020 and 2025. In order to quantify the minimum amounts required to meet the targets, the project team developed a value chain model of plastic recycling in EU-28 and linked the associated impacts to the amounts of plastic waste treated. Increased plastic recycling is estimated to result in significant benefits in EU-28.
- High environmental benefits, up to 8 Mt of GHG emissions savings per year by 2020 and up to 13 Mt by 2025.
- High potential of job creation throughout the plastic recycling value chain. Nearly 50 000 new jobs could be created directly by 2020, with over 75 000 additional indirect jobs supporting the sector and its operations. By 2025, employment could increase considerably by 80 000 direct jobs and 120 000 indirect jobs.
- Moderate impact on costs throughout the plastic recycling value chain, around 1 billion EUR by 2020 and 1.45 billion EUR by 2025. As an order of magnitude, the costs per tonne of plastic treated appear to be much lower than the average contribution to EPR systems in EU-28.
In order to reap the benefits of increased recycling in EU-28 a number of actions needs to be taken which are considered critical in improving the plastic recycling value chain. These include: increasing the collection of plastic waste and ensuring sustainable inputs to the recycling industry, increasing the recycling capacity in EU-28, limiting exports of plastic waste, increasing demand for recycled plastics and finally enhancing the recyclability (eco-design) of plastic-containing products.