Blog from the MD: China´s Ban on Plastic Waste Imports and EU`s Circular Economy Package – Call for Action

ISWA's new Managing Director, Arne Ragossnig has prepared his first post for the ISWA Blog.


Arne Ragossnig has been engaged in the waste management sector for 25 years, including in academic, private and public sector positions. He has also been an associate editor of ISWA’s Academic Journal, Waste Management & Research since 2004.

7 Mar 2018 -

The trialogue negotiation agreement on the cornerstones of EU`s Circular Economy Package in late 2017 and China´s ban on plastic waste imports that became effective at the beginning of this year make it very clear: recycling solutions cannot build on recyclates with questionable quality and external sinks. Clearly there is urgent need for action.


Achieving increased recycling targets without outlets for low quality recyclables puts increasing pressure on the European waste industry to find viable solutions for the recycling targets agreed upon at policy level. For this to be a success, the following efforts need to be made:

  1. Increasing the collection rate of separate collection of plastic waste by shifting plastic waste flows from the residual waste – a large share of which is thermally treated in Europe - to the separate plastic waste collection.
  2. Increase the quality of separately collected recyclables by a) implementing requirements with regard to product design in order to facilitate recyclability (=> design for recycling) and b) adjusting specifications for the separate collection of plastic waste in order to avoid items impeding the recycling process to enter the recycling chain. It will need the provision of high quality recyclables that are suited to substitute primary material without concessions with regards to quality to stimulate the plastic recycling.
  3. Processing technology needs to be developed, improved and implemented. This involves a huge amount of capital investments and thereby demands a clear vision of the future of plastic waste recycling.
  4. We need to increase the incentive with more revenue opportunities for recyclers.

A clear vision for Europe`s plastic waste strategy has been put in place by issuing the respective policy document as well as the recycling targets for plastic waste defined in the circular economy package trialogue agreement. This gives at least a direction for the next steps towards tackling the new situation. In addition, enabling the monetisation of recyclables implies the creation of a stable market for them.


There are two policy tools that may be used to secure the market and foster its growth:


  • Compulsory targets for recyclate use in new product
  • Economic revenues for provision of high quality recyclates

The above shows that the waste industry faces big challenges in the years to come. Succeeding in managing the consequences of the changing waste trade landscape will require action in all above-mentioned fields and also consideration of policy tools that ensure secondary resource markets become independent from volatile commodity markets. So, it is time to call for action and to involve experts in product design, waste logistics, waste processing technology and resource markets to make plastics recycling real.


Arne Ragossnig

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