New research charts course to circular plastic

A recently study by KPMG, Plastic feedstock for recycling in the Netherlands, highlights the Netherlands’ leading position in Europe in the reuse of raw materials.
The final report was presented to VNO-NCW on November 30, 2023. Nienke Homan (president, VNCI), Focco Vijselaar (president, VNO-NCW), Boris van der Ham (president, DWMA), Drea Berghorst (managing director, Plastics Europe) with the report ‘Plastic feedstock for recycling in the Netherlands’. Copyright: Fotopersburo Dijkstra / Paul Dijkstra

Its main message is that with its chemical, plastic and waste industries, the Netherlands is ideally placed to lead the way in plastic recycling too. The report was presented on November 30 to Focco Vijselaar, president of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW).

For the production of new plastics, Dutch industry wants to switch from fossil resources to bio-based materials and circular raw materials derived from plastic waste. This offers significant climate benefits, from halting the incineration of plastic waste to reducing the use of fossil resources in new products. However, many hurdles have to be overcome before this can be achieved. The KPMG study presents a detailed analysis of the supply of and expected demand for plastic waste for recycling and sets out policy options for establishing a closed-loop system that will maximise plastic recycling. Plastic waste is one of the most important alternatives to petroleum-based raw materials. Expanding the availability of this waste is therefore crucial.

Much more plastic from waste needed for sustainability

The KPMG study reveals that in the coming years, there will be a severe mismatch between the projected demand for plastic waste and the actual supply. New EU and national legislation prescribe ambitious mandatory percentages of recycled materials in new products. The Dutch chemical and plastics industry are preparing to implement requirements and have concrete plans to invest many millions in chemical recycling facilities. This will expand plastic waste recycling capacity to more than 2,200 kilotonnes by 2030. While this is promising, KPMG calculated that the availability (supply) of plastic waste will level off at around 1,000 kilotonnes in 2030. This means that additional measures will be necessary to bridge the gap and ensure that Dutch industry will be able to meet EU targets for climate-neutral production.

Policy options to exploit the potential

To boost plastic recycling in the Netherlands and Europe, KPMG outlines several policy options the government can use to create the necessary conditions, such as measures to improve collaboration between industrial sectors. Other measures aim for more and better sorting and post-sorting of collected plastic waste to prevent the incineration of 70% of the 1,698 kilotonnes of plastic waste collected annually in the Netherlands, which happens now. In addition to this as yet untapped potential in household waste, much more plastic can be recovered from commercial and industrial waste streams. But even if these opportunities are exploited, there remains a large demand for circular raw materials from other parts of Europe and beyond. KPMG recommends that the Netherlands should advocate not only for a level playing field that makes it easier to transport plastic waste within Europe, but also for rapidly removing barriers to using plastic waste as a renewable resource. ‘Otherwise the amounts of plastic waste being recycling in Europe will remain inadequate,’ say the authors of the report. ‘Achieving a fully circular value chain in Europe will require close cooperation at the European level.’

Focco Vijselaar, president of VNO-NCW: ‘This research takes the waste processing companies, the chemical industry and the plastics sector a crucial step forward on the way to green plastic. Recycling plastic on a massive scale and adopting chemical recycling methods will make Europe less dependent on fossil raw materials from elsewhere in the world. Moreover, these innovations will give us an advantage and our manufacturing industry will remain competitive in the long term. This offers the best guarantee for well-paid green jobs with less impact on the world and the environment where people live and spend their leisure time.’


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