Plastic Waste Power Play: The offshoring and recycling displacement involved in trying to recycle EU plastic waste

EU plastic waste exports are taking up limited plastic waste recycling capacity in recipient countries. The vast majority of plastic has never been recycled and exporting plastic waste from high-income, high-consuming countries helps perpetuate the status quo, rather than focusing on the reduction of plastic consumption.

Major exporters of EU plastic waste such as Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium are not only prolific consumers of plastic, but also take advantage of the possibility to export plastic waste in order to try and achieve their recycling targets. However, as evidenced within this report, this results in the recycling capacity of recipient countries being inundated and the possibility of recycling their own domestically-generated plastic waste is thus displaced – resulting in recycling capacity displacement. Simply put, without having to recycle the plastic waste of high-income countries, these countries would also have greater capacity to recycle domestically generated plastic waste.