Improving Markets for Recycled Plastics

Trends, Prospects and Policy Responses

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Plastics have become one of the most prolific materials on the planet: in 2015 we produced about 380 million tonnes of plastics globally, up from 2 million tonnes in the 1950s. Yet today only 15% of this plastic waste is collected and recycled into secondary plastics globally each year. This report looks at why this is the case and what we can do about it, as the pervasiveness of plastics is becoming an urgent public health and planetary problem. Not only is the diffusion of waste plastics into the wider environment creating hugely negative impacts, but plastics production emits approximately 400 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually as a result of the energy used in their production, transport, and final waste treatment. Improved plastics collection and recycling represents a promising solution to these concerns.



Barriers and interventions

This chapter synthesises the barriers that hinder more widespread plastics recycling, and offers a set of policy interventions that could help to address them. Barriers are divided into four categories: economic (such as the high cost of collecting, sorting, and reprocessing waste plastics), technical (such as the limited availability of technologies for recycling thermoset plastics), environmental (such as uncertainties about the presence of hazardous additives in plastics waste that can hinder the use of recycled plastics in certain applications), and regulatory (such as the uncontrolled dumping and burning of waste that takes place in some countries). Potential policy interventions are then presented and ranked according to how feasible and effective they are likely to be.


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