In a press release on June 18, 2020, industry association Plastic Recyclers Europe (PRE) announced the publication of a market report investigating the production, use, and recycling of flexible plastic packaging in the EU. The study found that 15 mega metric tons (Mt) of flexible films are placed annually on the EU market, of which 9 Mt are polyethylene (PE) films and 2.5 Mt are polypropylene (PP) films. At a current recycling rate of 23%, PE films are seen to have significant potential for increased collection and recycling, especially for films from household waste streams that make up 40% of all PE film waste generated in the EU. Current limitations to the recycling of films were identified to stem from design issues such as the use of multilayer materials as well as from a shortage of collection, separation, and recycling infrastructure.
Food packaging is reported to be the product group with the largest ratio of non-PE films. Many PP and multi-material films were found to be used widely for food packaging, with as little as 40% being made of a PE mono-material, up to 35% made of PP, and around 20% being multi-material films. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), aluminum, and nylon are the most common materials used alongside PE and PP in multi-material films.
The report also provides an overview of other market data related to flexible packaging, including EU import and export amounts, recycling capacity by country, and markets for recycled material. PRE has planned to update and publish this report every two years.
PRE (June 18, 2020). “What is next for increasing flexible packaging recycling?”
Karen Laird (June 19, 2020). “PE flexible film recycling in Europe could more than triple given the right conditions.” Sustainable Plastics
PRE (June 18, 2020). “Flexible Films Market in Europe – State of Play.” (pdf)