Yellow gas pipelines

Energy prices are surging in Europe due to multiple factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. | MVelishchuk/Shutterstock

The European energy crisis has driven electricity prices up to 70% of plastics reclaimers’ operating expenses, and without help, they may have to close, according to an industry group. 

Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) on Sept 22 issued an alert that high energy prices, which are being fueled by the economic sanctions issued in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are pushing costs dramatically higher for the continent’s plastic recycling sector. 

PRE noted that energy costs are typically among the top three highest operating expenditures for facilities, after labor and maintenance, representing 15% to 20% of operating costs. But with skyrocketing natural gas and electricity prices, energy costs are now making up 70% of operating expenses, according to PRE, which derived that number from a survey of its member companies. 

Already, Italian plastics recycling facilities are closing or reducing operations.

“Stopping the recycling activities will have an immediate, negative impact on the plastic waste management in Europe,” Ton Emans, PRE’s president, stated in the alert. “If we want to drive a circular economy in Europe, plastic recycling must be considered a key industry sector to be targeted by Member States’ efforts to protect from the impact of high electricity prices.”

Energy prices are rising for multiple reasons, especially the cuts to natural gas flows from Russia west into Europe, according to Reuters. Adding to the problem are outages at French nuclear energy facilities and the summer heatwave, which drove energy demand. 

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