A recent and sudden decision by China to ban imports of scrap plastics has created turmoil in waste management markets, according to Plastics Recycling Europe (PRE).
China's Ministry of Environmental Protection is proposing reducing the threshold for contaminants in bales of material for recycling to 0.3% by the end of the year.
This, according to PRE, has disturbed Europe's waste management systems which “have been actively supporting and assisting the treatment of low quality plastics waste in the country.”
“The market is oversupplied with low qualities of plastics waste due to China's restrictions on imports. These low qualities used to be exported as a cheap end-of-life solution for badly collected and sorted waste,” said PRE president Ton Emans.
This practice, he went on to say was unfair in terms of economic, social and environmental implications.
Following the Chinese decision, PRE believes that the surplus is unable to be totally absorbed in EU as it does not meet the quality requirements of the European recyclers.
“This abrupt change in the market conditions demonstrates the urgency needed to implement a real and sustainable waste market in Europe,” said PRE in a 25 Sept statement.
The organisation also called for changes in design for recycling, collection and sorting of waste in order to drive up the quality.
PRE blamed “lack of vision of the value chain over the last few years” for the EU's current problem of being unable to treat these new increased quantities “overnight”.
The organisation urged industry, policy makers and society must to urgently “bring a common solution to the table” to improve design for recycling, harmonised collection and investment in efficient sorting centres in order to increase the EU's recycling capacity.