Study highlights increasing B&C recovery rates but significant disparities in waste management practices across markets

A wealth of data exists for the recovery of plastics packaging waste across Europe. However, to date there has been little or no comparative analysis of plastics waste management practices in building and construction (B&C) - the second biggest market segment for plastics.
To address this gap PlasticsEurope, the trade body representing European plastics manufacturers, has commissioned an independent study into plastics waste in the B&C sector in the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU-27) along with Norway and Switzerland.

Across these 29 countries, a total of 56.2% of plastics B&C waste was diverted from landfill in 2010 through a combination of recycling (20%) and energy recovery (36.2%). This represented a significant increase on a total recovery rate of 51.9% in 2009, continuing the positive trend in waste management of plastics in the B&C sector. 
However, the results of the study highlight strong disparities in recovery rates from country to country. Germany provides an example of what can be achieved with the right infrastructure and regulations in place, recovering over 96% of plastics B&C waste in 2010. Meanwhile, in Italy and Spain over 80% still ended up in landfill.

In other countries the picture is more nuanced. While the UK leads the way in terms of recycling rates (31.5%) it still sent roughly two thirds of its waste to landfill in 2010 due to minimal use of energy recovery. In contrast, Scandinavian countries have overall recovery rates of almost 80% due to a strong focus on energy recovery.

Other findings of interest include the relatively limited proportion of plastics B&C waste becoming available in relation to overall plastics waste. While the building and construction sector uses 20% of overall plastics production, it was responsible for only 5.5% of total plastics waste in 2010. This can be explained in part by the low levels of use of plastics in the past and the long life span of many plastic applications in the B&C market. However, the proportion of plastics in the B&C sector has rapidly increased in recent decades, therefore the amount of plastics waste is expected to increase over time as more installations reach their end of life. 

The industry has already been working to promote effective waste management of plastics products in building and construction for a number of years through voluntary commitments such as the pioneering VinylPlus programme on the sustainable management of PVC.

Despite the current low post consumer B&C plastics waste, the rate of 56.2% diversion from landfill follows the same trend as overall plastics waste at 57.9%. The industry will continue its efforts to increase this recovery rate throughout Europe, as part of its overall objective of zero plastics to landfill by 2020. 
Powerpoint Summary
Analysis of recovery of plastic waste in the building and construction sector (2010) - Ececutive Summary
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