The wide world of recycling

The wide world of recycling

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

A new report shows that, while some countries in Europe have made considerable progress in raising recycling rates, others are lagging behind, and the U.K.'s exporters of recovered plastics are experiencing market uncertainty.

New numbers from the European Union show that growth in recycling rates have been uneven among member states, with some at risk of not meeting mandated targets.

According to a report from the European Environmental Agency, 35 percent of municipal waste was recycled in Europe in 2010, an increase from the 23 percent recorded in 2001. The report includes the 27 EU member states, in addition to Croatia, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

However, the report found that, while five countries have already met a 2020 target that requires them to recycle half of their municipal waste, other countries are woefully behind and may not be able to catch up. For instance, Bulgaria and Romania have low recycling rates and, in order to meet the 2020 target, they must increase their recycling by four percentage points each year during this decade, something no country has done between 2001 and 2010.

The countries with the highest recycling rates included Austria (63 percent), Germany (62 percent), Belgium (58 percent), the Netherlands (51 percent) and Switzerland (51 percent). The report also notes the U.K. increased its recycling rate from 12 to 39 percent between 2001 and 2010, while Ireland raised its recycling rate from 11 percent to 36 percent during the same time period. Countries such as Slovenia, Poland and Hungary have also made strides in increasing recycling since joining the EU.

In the U.K., exporters of recovered plastics are reporting a crackdown by the Chinese government, relating to the quality of recovered plastics entering the country, according to

Earlier this month, a letter from the Chinese government signaled that it had had enough of poor-quality recyclables being imported from Western countries. Some exporters describe growing uncertainty in the market with some companies having a hard time getting material overseas.

According to, the price of plastic films has fallen 40 percent. If the situation persists, the U.K. might have serious problems as the country's recycling industry struggles to find the capacity for the new surplus of plastics, according to exporters cited in the article.

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