Following two years of global pandemic, the waste recycling market has dealt with different challenges: from plastic waste piling up around the world to the paper recycling market going up and down or to increasing demand for biogas and biomethane production to respond to the European energy crisis and lead to a more rapid transition from fossil fuels. Beginning of 2023, we thought of gathering some interesting facts on the waste recycling market last year and some of the statistics on what we should expect in the future. Let’s dive in.

Plastic waste: India introduced a ban on single-use plastic

Statistics say that India generates around 3.5 million of plastic yearly. Around 40% is being dumped in landfills and almost 60% of the plastic waste that is collected is not recycled. However, as of July 2022, India introduced a ban on single-use plastic such as plastic sticks, straws, plates, cups, glasses and cutlery, and food packaging. It is still very early to see how the ban has impacted the market, but it seems that small businesses and manufacturers find it hard to replace plastic with environmentally friendly materials which can lead to higher prices for the end-user. Thus, it’s going to take some time to see the impact of the new law and see solutions coming from big manufacturers as well.

Looking into the future, an OECD report in 2022 warned about an exponential rise in plastic waste produced globally, expected to triple by 2060 if waste management and recycling policies and programs are not accelerated. Significant changes in how we produce, purchase, and use plastics and ways to recover it must as well be made, otherwise recycling alone will not do the job.

Paper recycling

Paper in general has one of the highest rates of recycling. In Europe, the CEPI (Confederation of European Paper Industries) in Brussels estimated a 71.4% recycling rate last year (two percent down from 2021) while in the US for example in 2021 paper recycling rate was at 68%.

However, Europe has an 85% target to reach by 2030 and paper producers and recyclers are optimistic, pledging to go beyond this limit and reach a 90% recycling rate within the next 7 years. Is this feasible? We believe it is, considering that Italy alone has already achieved a rate of 87,3% of paper recycling in 2021 and it is set to accelerate paper recycling with European funds from the PNRR (Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza) program.

Food waste management system: how can we improve?

Food continues to count as the largest category of waste globally. It’s not only the consumer that wastes food, or retailers and restaurants, but food is also lost from agricultural processes and for food safety standard reasons.

The issue gets bigger by the year with constant population growth, that last November reached 8 billion people. A report by the United Nations Environmental Programme in 2021 revealed that more than 900 million tonnes of food are thrown away every year globally, with 61 % coming from households, over 25% from food service and 13% from retail. The plan is to half consumer food waste by 2030.

Food waste is a great resource to produce biogas and biomethane and this is a market that is further expanding especially in Europe where there are around 20.000 plants supplying a big part of Europe’s energy with Germany, France, Italy and countries in northern Europe leading the way. Apart from reducing Europe’s dependency on natural gas, the market would also ensure a faster transition to a circular economy, while also benefiting the environment.

Aluminum waste

Europe has the highest Recycling Efficiency Rate (RER) in the world, recovering 81% of the aluminum scrap potentially available in the region. And Italy is a good example when it comes to recycling aluminum from packaging, with a 67.5% rate of its total aluminum production.

Globally, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.16% from 2021 to 2030, meaning we will supposedly produce less primary metal and pollute less.

Biomass for energy

The biomass market is predicted to grow based on a rising need for alternative energy sources. Although it is mainly Europe to have faced the energy crisis in the past year, the need to use biomass in the power mix is growing both in the US and the Asia Pacific. Back in Europe, according to an EU report, biomass is the main source of renewable energy in the European Union, with a share of almost 60% with the heating sector as its largest user. And while there’s an immediate need in cutting the use of fossil fuels plus a climate-neutrality goal to be reached by 2050, the European Commission is seeking to impose new rules regarding forest biomass foremost and utmost. Thus, last December it was decided that forest biomass in order to be sustainable needs to respect some sustainability criteria on how it is collected and the usage of land. However, things are not that clear, so we shall see how biomass producers will act.

Where is the market heading?

Looking at the available statistics, the waste recycling market overall is predicted to grow from nearly 58 billion USD in 2021 to 88 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 4. 8%. Growth is based on the rising volume of waste, rapid urbanization and industrialization, and increasing awareness about environmental protection.

We have the various technologies to recover the most valuable materials, Ecostar alone has been supplying to the recycling market innovative screening solutions for more than 25 years, but we need more investments into recycling infrastructure and programs to engage people and make them see the benefits of recycling in the long term.