A major increase in PET imports threatens the competitiveness of the EU’s industry, along with its objective to improve the waste management of plastics.
Between 2021 and 2022 imports of PET have doubled reaching 1.9Mt, with India, China and Türkiye among the biggest exporters in terms of volumes and value followed by Indonesia, Egypt and Vietnam.1 With the increase, imports represented nearly 30% of the total demand for PET in Europe in 2022, compared to only 23% in 2020. Given the strong divergences in energy, labour and environmental costs in the EU compared to the rest of the world, this important market shift puts the European industry under a lot of pressure.
“Following these concerning market developments, the EU has initiated an anti-dumping proceeding against China for the imports of PET throughout 2022”,2 said Herbert Snell, PRE PET Working Group Vice Chair and Managing Director at Multiport GmbH - MultiPet GmbH part of the Veolia Group. “Among the allegations, the issued notice reflects a likelihood that increased dumped imports would have a negative impact on the performance of the EU industry”, he added.
The growing imports could be explained by the heightened demand for rPET in the EU, driven by the 2025 recycled content targets of 25%3 for beverage bottles, and the consequent rise in rPET prices on the continent.
“It needs to be ensured that recycled PET imported to the EU at significantly lower prices is compliant with the stringent EU food contact regulation4, and therefore does not put at disadvantage the efforts made for creating a robust rPET industry in Europe”, stated Casper van den Dungen, Vice-President of Plastics Recyclers Europe. He continued: “This will additionally require full verification of the traceability of imported polymers by end users to avoid using self-declarations as the means of reporting recycled materials participating to the EU targets”.5
Consequently, ensuring the enforcement of EU rules for goods and materials from outside the continent is key to protecting the ‘Made in the EU’ and maintaining a level playing field for all actors. Otherwise, the circularity of plastic products placed on the market will be undermined, together with substantial investments in the recycling industry and its capacities.6
1 Eurostat, EU trade since 1988 byHS2-4-6 and CN8 [DS-045409]
3 Target set by the Single Use Plastic Directive
4 Commission Regulation (EU) 2022/1616 stipulates that which input to recycling must come from separate collection systems in case of recycled food grade PET.
5 Trade of recycled plastics within the EU and with extra-EU trade partners can be monitored using the CN (Combined Nomenclature) codes, but virgin and recycled plastics share the same codes, therefore, there are no distinct codes for recycled plastics.
ABOUT PLASTICS RECYCLERS EUROPE
Plastics Recyclers Europe is an organization representing the voice of the European plastics recyclers who reprocess plastic waste into high quality material destined for production of new articles. Recyclers are important facilitators of the circularity of plastics and the transition towards the circular economy.
Plastics recycling in Europe is a rapidly growing sector representing over €8.7 billion in turnover, 11.3 million tonnes of installed recycling capacity, more than 730 recycling facilities, and over 30.000 employees.