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EU surpasses target for plastic packaging waste; USA recovers 9%, Singapore 11% of total plastic waste

EU surpasses target for plastic packaging waste; USA recovers 9%, Singapore 11% of total plastic waste

EU 27+2 recycled 5.4 mln tons amounting to 34.7%, of all its plastic packaging waste in 2012, easily surpassing the EU’s minimum target of 22.5%, while energy recovery hit 34.5% (33.2%), as per the annual report Plastics -The Facts 2012. This report has been produced in partnership between PlasticsEurope, EuPC, EuPR and EPRO (The Plastic Data Alliance). In total, 69.2% (66.8%) of all plastic packaging waste was recovered in 2012, the balance going to landfills and incineration without energy recovery. The recovery results for packaging of 69.2% are better than for other plastic applications as the recovery rate for all plastics reached 62.3% (59.3%). Packaging contributes with 62% of all plastic waste, but as much as 82% of all plastics are recycled. Packaging thus lift the average recycling rate for all plastics in Europe, EPRO (European Association of Plastics Recycling & Recovery Organisations) says.
The recycling rate for plastic packaging rose from 33.6% in 2011 to 34.7% in 2012. This shows the national recycling schemes in Europe, based on extended producer responsibility (EPR), manage well, EPRO says. Each country has normally, either by law or a covenant, fixed national targets for recycling and energy recovery. These regulations are based on the EU directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EU).  Except for Malta all the EU 27+2 countries in 2012 exceeded the EU minimum targets of 22.5% recycling. 19 countries even recycled more than 30%. In 2012, Netherlands ranked on the top with a recycling rate of 50.6% followed by Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden and Estonia. Regarding energy recovery results there are big differences within Europe. Nine countries energy recovered more than 50% of their plastic packaging waste in 2012 and obtained all a total recovery rate (recycling + energy recovery) above 90%. This means that less than 10% was landfilled in these countries.  At the other end of the ranking list, a couple of countries still does not energy recover any plastic waste. Seven countries landfilled more than 50% of their plastic packaging waste, among them UK with 63%.  63% of the post-consumer plastic packaging waste is generated from households, the remaining 37%, comes from the trade/ industry segment. The recycling rate for trade and industry sector reached 37.6%, while recycling for the households segment obtained 33%.
The following EPRO countries include all kinds of plastic packaging in their collection schemes for households: Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, either in a separate plastics fraction or together with other lightweight packaging (yellow bin). In other countries like Austria and UK some parts of the country collect all plastic packaging while other regions concentrate on just rigid plastic packaging. Germany, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have a deposit system for beverage bottles. In Belgium, France and Switzerland the systems focus on rigid plastics (bottles), but France is now making tests in order to expand the scope of the system to comprise all plastic packaging. How to sort, recycle and recover mixed streams of plastic packaging is a main issue for EPRO. Several EPRO members are also active within the agriculture sector, collecting and recovering agriculture film and rigid plastic packaging waste from farmers. In 2012 the agriculture sector generated 1.316 mln tons of post-consumer plastic waste. This equals 5% of all plastic waste generated within EU27+2. In 2012 26.4% (23.5%) of this was recycled, while 28.4% (27.2 %) was energy recovered. This means the rest, 45.2% went to landfill. EPRO wants to contribute to more diversion of agriculture plastic waste from the European landfills.  Since 2011, EPRO established a working group focusing on collection and recovery of plastic waste from the agriculture sector. This expert group exchanges knowledge and best practice among EPRO members and is also networking with other organisations.  In 2012 this group started a three- year project on definitions and on this basis develop even better statistics for all kinds of plastics from the agriculture sector in cooperation with APE- Europe and other organizations. 

As per USA's EPA (Environmental Protect Agency), plastics make up almost 13% of the municipal solid waste stream, a dramatic increase from 1960, when plastics were less than 1% of the waste stream. The largest amount of plastics is found in containers and packaging (soft drink bottles, lids, shampoo bottles), but they also are found in durable (appliances, furniture) and nondurable goods (diapers, trash bags, cups and utensils, medical devices). The recycling rate for different types of plastic varies greatly, resulting in an overall plastics recycling rate of only 9%, or 2.8 million tons in 2012. However, the recycling rate for some plastic products is much higher, for example in 2012, 28% of HDPE bottles and 31% of PET bottles and jars were recycled. Some facts from EPA:
  • 32 mln tons of plastic waste were generated in 2012, representing 12.7% of total MSW.
  • In 2012, the United States generated almost 14 mln tons of plastics as containers and packaging, about 11 mln tons as durable goods such as appliances, and almost 7 mln tons as nondurable goods, such as plates and cups.
  • Only 9% of the total plastic waste generated in 2012 was recovered for recycling.
  • In 2012, the category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at about 12%.
  • Plastics also are found in automobiles, but recycling of these materials is counted separately from the MSW recycling rate.

As per www.zerowastesg.com, in 2012, about 7.3 mln tons of waste was generated in Singapore, and each person generated around 1,370 kg of waste in a year. The recycling rate in Singapore for 2012 is 60% (59% in 2011), and has been increasing steadily over the years. The government has met its target of 60% recycling rate by 2012 (set in the Singapore Green Plan 2012), and is on track for its recycling target of 65% by 2020 and 70% by 2030 (set in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint). 40% of Singapore’s waste is still disposed of, with 37.6% going to the waste-to-energy plants for incineration and energy recovery, and 2.7% of non-incinerable waste such as construction and demolition waste, used slag and treated sludge, going to the Semakau Landfill for landfilling. The top 5 waste types make up 75% of the total waste generated in Singapore, which are either disposed of at the waste-to-energy plants and landfill, or recycled locally and exported.

The top 5 waste types
Ferrous Metal 19%
Construction Debris 18%
Paper/Cardboard 17%
Plastics 11%
Food Waste 10%
 

The top 3 waste types make up 65% of the total waste disposed in Singapore

Plastics 25%
Food Waste 21%
Paper/Cardboard 19%
 

For the 3 common types of waste disposed, the recycling rate for plastics and food waste is still low:

Food Waste 12%
Plastics         10%
Paper/Cardboard 56%

In 2013, 741,100 tons of plastics waste was disposed, 91,100 tons was recycled, at a recycling rate of 11%.

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