12 January 2016 by Tom Goulding

UK lags behind Europe on plastics packaging

The UK lagged behind some of the top-performing EU member states in the amount of plastics packaging recycled during 2013, latest data from the European Commission suggests.

Figures published via the Commission’s data website Eurostat show that the UK recorded a plastics packaging recycling rate of 31.6% in 2013, compared to an average of 37.3% across all 28 EU member states.

The UK showed improvement in plastics packaging in 2013 but lagged behind top-performing EU states

The UK showed improvement in plastics packaging in 2013 but lagged behind top-performing EU states

It means that the UK ranked alongside the likes of Estonia, Hungary and Luxembourg, which achieved rates of 28.1%, 30.8% and 32.2% respectively. Better performing member states such as Sweden and the Netherlands recorded plastics recycling rates of 45.6% and 46.2% respectively.

However, plastics packaging recycling was up more than 6% on 2012 in the UK, the largest single 12-month increase in over a decade.

The figures come as the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) consults on whether to amend the UK’s plastics packaging target for 2016 in the wake of market pressure. The target currently stands at 52%, and is set to rise to 57% in 2017.

But under the proposals, the current target may fall to 48% – increasing by 1% each year until the end of the decade.

A Eurostat graph showing plastics packaging recycled (%) for EU member states in 2013

A Eurostat graph showing plastics packaging recycled (%) for EU member states in 2013 (Click to expand)

Glass

On glass the UK performed better but failed to meet the EU average, recycling 68.3% of its glass packaging in 2013 against the EU’s overall total of 72.8%.

And on metals, the country also lagged far behind many of its EU counterparts, recycling 57.4% of packaging compared to an average of 73.9%.

Wood packaging recycling also dropped from 51.3% to 42.3% between 2012 and 2013, however this was still above the EU average of 36.1%.

The UK also recycled more paper and cardboard packaging compared to many EU states, achieving an 89.4% rate compared to an average of 84.7%.

Across all material streams, the UK performed somewhat better with 64.6% of packaging recycled – ranking it fifteenth out of 28 states. This compares to an EU-wide average of 65.3% for the year.

It is also a boost on previous performances, which saw the UK achieve 60.8% and 61.4% in 2011 and 2012 respectively (see letsrecycle.com story).

Among the top performers were Belgium with 78.7%, Sweden with 71.9%, and Germany with 71.8%.

A Eurostat graph showing packaging recycling data for EU member states in 2013

A Eurostat graph showing overall packaging recycling (%) for EU member states in 2013

Targets

In December, the EU unveiled Circular Economy proposals that could require member states to adopt a 65% packaging recycling target by 2025, rising to 75% by 2030.

Targets for individual material streams include 75% for wood, and 85% for ferrous metal, glass, aluminium, paper and cardboard.

A separate action plan will be set up to evaluate the future plastics packaging target depending on the progress made by individual Member States. A prospective plastics target for 2025 has been set at 55%.

 

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