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Almost 55 Million Tons of Plastic Will Be Mechanically Recycled Globally by 2030

Even so, the global recycling rate of commodity plastics is expected to reach only 16.5% by that year.

Geoff Giordano

January 19, 2024

2 Min Read
recycling plastic bottles
Sami Sert/iStock via Getty Images

At a Glance

  • PET is the most recycled plastic, at 27.1% in 2022
  • 16% of plastic recyclate goes into rigid packaging
  • Plastics usage increasing in Africa and India

Mechanical plastics recycling production surpassed 54 million tons globally in 2022 and is projected to near 55 million tons by 2030, according to a new report from AMI Consulting.

Over 36 million tons of recyclate was produced in 2022 as a result, according to the report "Mechanical Plastics Recycling — The Global Market." The report notes "vast opportunities" within the industry, as the global recycling rate of commodity plastics is expected to reach only 16.5% by 2030.

PET is recycled most often, at a rate of 27.1% in 2022. "The approval of food-grade rPET is also gaining traction in countries across Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent, opening new opportunities for rPET use in higher value food-grade applications," AMI noted.

End-use applications for recyclate are:

  • Other extrusion: 21%

  • Rigid packaging: 16%

  • Fibers: 16%

  • Other injection molding: 15%

  • Building/infrastructure: 13%

  • Flexible packaging: 6%

  • Agriculture/horticulture: 5%

  • Other applications: 4%

  • Transportation/automotive: 3%

  • Electrical: 1%

The report, written by AMI recycling and sustainability consultant Elizabeth Carroll, is in its second edition. Data covers the years 2021-2023. 

Regionally, the report notes the disparity in efforts to curb the use of excessive packaging, with Europe and Northeast Asia leading the way while plastics usage is increasing in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and elsewhere. Recycling infrastructure is also more entrenched in Europe and Northeast Asia, while post-consumer waste — mostly bottles and flasks — is collected primarily by the "informal sector."

In a July article on LinkedIn, Carroll noted that European mechanical plastics recyclate production was 8.7 million tons in 2022 and predicted to grow at an annual rate of 5.6% to 13.5 million tons in 2030. Combined with an expected 3.5 million tons of chemical recycling capacity operational by 2030, that would put Europe "in the region of 16 million tons of plastic recyclate." However, with 40 million tons of waste expected to enter the waste stream that year, "it will give Europe a plastics recycling rate of 40%."

About the Author(s)

Geoff Giordano

Geoff Giordano is a tech journalist with more than 30 years’ experience in all facets of publishing. He has reported extensively on the gamut of plastics manufacturing technologies and issues, including 3D printing materials and methods; injection, blow, micro and rotomolding; additives, colorants and nanomodifiers; blown and cast films; packaging; thermoforming; tooling; ancillary equipment; and the circular economy. Contact him at [email protected].

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