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  • Writer's pictureAtomler

Challenges For Waste Trading Companies In The Recycled Plastic Industry in Europe

The increasing presence of plastics on land and alarmingly in oceans globally is a symptom that plastic usage in our modern world has gotten out of control. The challenge becomes more prominent as the industry's projections are to increase production, in part, due to low oil and gas prices.

The most used plastic globally is PE (which includes HDPE, LDPE, and LLDPE). The PE, PP, PVC, PS, and PET- account for 85% of total plastics demand worldwide. The world of fibers is dominated by polyester, based on PET, which accounts for 70% of total production.

Only 9% of all plastics ever discarded since 1950 have been recycled. Around 12% of the plastic has been incinerated. The rest is still present in the environment, whether in landfills, dumpsites, oceans, incinerator residues, etc. and will most likely remain there for millennia.

Having an effective recycling methodology of mixed plastic waste is one of the significant challenges the European Recycled plastic market faces. Even though most companies vouch that there has been promising growth in this market, some still state that their business has grown only far below the GDP.

Challenges Waste Trading Companies in the Recycled Plastic Industry

1.Lack of material Standardization or product recyclability

This is one of the major challenges the waste trading companies face as the amount or type of chemical or dye used in each plastic product varies even though it being from the same manufacturer. This reduces the freedom to recycle this plastic as it may contaminate or even reduce the quality of the recycled product.

2.Volatile Customer Demand

The demand for recycling plastics from the industry is very low. Being at the heart of the fossil fuel economy, oil prices influence plastics. When these are low, virgin materials become cheap; hence the demand for used plastics falls.

This makes the market for recycled plastics very weak, subject to constant fluctuations attached to changes in oil prices. The current increase of shale oil and gas extraction is taking oil prices down, thus making plastic recycling less attractive.

3.Inefficient Quality of Sorting

The sorting of plastic is an essential step involved in waste management techniques. Manual sorting becomes feasible when the components are present in large amounts but is highly labor-intensive. Most waste trader companies require complex infrastructure applying several technologies to streamline the optimal output, which can be costly.

4.Environmental Injustice

The global trade of plastic scrap implies severe environmental injustices. Many plastics exported are mixed plastics, of low grade, with no local markets. The lack of transparency also enables illegal waste trade.


Europe is highly dependent on exports to maintain recycling systems. The EU exports 40% of plastics collected for recycling. The International Organization for Standardization has prescribed several standards concerning plastics recycling.

Although exports of plastic waste for recycling from Europe are high, it remains to be seen if this will be the future. Given the rising awareness of the negative impacts of plastic pollution and the rise in EU political action on plastics and ever-changing markets such as the Chinese ban on plastic scrap, imports are some of the downstream problems with the recycling market might face.


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