Using waste as a resource is key to becoming more resource efficient. At the end of their service life, plastics are still too valuable to be simply thrown away. They can be recycled back into new products or chemical raw materials or, where this is not possible or sustainable, used for energy recovery as a substitute for virgin fossil fuels. The objective of PlasticsEurope is to achieve “zero plastics to landfill” and therefore 100% recovery of plastic waste.

Although we are still some way from achieving this, if all plastic waste were to be diverted from landfill and today’s best practices and technologies applied in an eco-efficient (1) manner:

  • An additional amount of more than 5 tonnes of plastic waste would be recycled, saving some 7 tonnes of CO2 emissions. 
  • The remaining plastic waste which cannot be sustainably recycled at this stage, together with other associated recoverable waste (2), could generate around 330 TWh of energy annually. This energy would provide 30 million people with electricity, heating and cooling and would save 70 million barrels of oil consumed by industry, for instance to produce cement.

(1) The eco-efficiency of a product or service describes its environmental as well as its economic performance.
(2) Assuming a landfill rate of 10% for non-plastic waste

Plastics recycling and recovery in Europe

recycling-and-energy.pngIn Europe, while eight Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland, landfill less than 10% of their plastic waste, eleven other Member States still landfill more than 50%. The latest annual monitoring of plastics waste, recycling and recovery performed on behalf of PlasticsEurope and the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations (EPRO) revealed the following key facts for EU-28 countries plus Norway and Switzerland for the year 2016:

  • Collected post-consumer waste reached 25.1 million tonnes

  • Recovery reached 72.7%

  • Plastics packaging has the highest recycling and recovery rates 

  • For the first time more plastics waste was recycled than landfilled

PlasticsEurope and its partners are committed to continue the regular monitoring of this data in order to provide all stakeholders with reliable information on plastics waste as well as, recycling and recovery rates.

For more information see: Plastics - the Facts 2017.

PlasticsEurope’s contribution to the debate

Since the early 1990s, European plastics manufacturers have been committed and prepared to contribute to the enhancement of plastics waste management schemes. To exploit the full potential of this precious resource, we call for:

  • A landfill ban of all recyclable and recoverable post-consumer waste by 2025.
  • The establishment of recovery-oriented collection schemes, in particular, the separate collection of all packaging. 
  • Investments in modern sorting infrastructure and improved recycling and recovery processes.

We pursue our objective to achieve zero plastics to landfill through:

  • Specific know-how and expertise compiled via studies and thorough evaluations of practices in high-performing member states.  
  • An open dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.
  • Analysis of data on quantities of plastics waste generated, recycled and recovered in Europe regularly compiled and made available to the broader public.


Read PlasticEurope’s response to the Green Paper on Plastic Waste in the Environment - 7 June 2013.

Read more about PlasticsEurope’s vision for Waste collection, pre-treatment and sorting.

Read more about PlasticsEurope’s perspective on Recycling and energy recovery

Contact us for more information

Contact us for more information about the benefits of plastics and the activities of PlasticsEurope.