This report reviews and analyses the recycling industry in Australia and internationally. It provides a strong case for the development of innovative technologies that will help to improve the management and processing of plastic waste and improve global environmental outcomes.

Download the report - Recycled Plastics Market: Global Analysis and Trends [pdf · 1mb]

Report recommendations

  • The research suggests that there is strong case for the development of innovative technologies that overcome identified challenges and support continued growth. 
  • There are opportunities across the recycling industry, including:
    • increasing the cost effectiveness of waste collection
    • providing more efficient sorting and reducing rates of contamination
    • using low value or underutilised feedstocks
    • delivering higher quality resins that can compete with virgin materials on price and quality.

Report findings

  • Scope of study: This industry analysis draws on expert opinion sourced from key stakeholder interviews (n = 10), independent intellectual property (IP) landscape studies and CSIRO-authored and independent market analysis reports into the plastic recycling industry.
  • Goal of study: The goal behind this work was to provide a comprehensive and authoritative analysis on the plastics recycling industry to assist with the future identification of R&D opportunities to overcome market challenges and support growth.
  • Market landscape: Strong growth is predicted for the market over the next decade, to deliver a total value of $66.9 billion by 2025. Strong growth is also predicted across all application areas, resin types and global regions. This stems from:
    • rising environmental concerns
    • issues with waste management
    • increasing demand for recycled plastic items
    • food packaging is set to grow by 3.63 per cent to 2020, in part driven by the increasing populations in developing countries
    • a 5.33 per cent growth rate to 2020 is projected for the Americas, largely due to increase investment in PET, HDPE and PP recycling
    • Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) also predicts 3.4 per cent growth over this period, largely due to the strong waste disposal legislation introduced by the EU. This emphasises both collection of plastic waste, as well as its conversion in recycled products.
    • rising populations in China, India and Malaysia will also see a 2.85 per cent growth to 2020 for the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region
  • The key economic factor for the industry is the cost and quality competitiveness of recycled resins compared with virgin materials. This is often tied to oil and plastic commodity prices, but can be offset by technologies that maximise the volume, usability, purity and value of waste collected, or redirection of material to other streams such as energy from waste.
  • A large driver of growth for the industry stems from growing public interest in reducing the environmental footprint of plastic products. Large multinationals are responding by setting ambitious sustainability targets, adopting more circular approaches and integrating recycled plastics into their products.
  • The largest technological gaps include:
    • prohibitive cost of collection for some waste streams (e.g. remote regions)
    • sorting of waste is laborious and costly
    • contamination of waste streams
    • much plastic waste is underutilised due to low value, issues with sorting/contamination or being overlooked
    • recycled resins need to compete with virgin materials on price and quality
  • Our results indicate that plastic products are associated with an array of environmental concerns including
    • increasing volume and long legacy of plastics
    • accumulation of marine and microplastics in the environment
    • increasing waste disposal requirements
    • depletion of virgin resources
    • potential impact of toxic additives in the plastics
  • Results from our stakeholder interviews indicated that an increasing consumer focus on environmental issues and sustainability has help to drive the market. This has translated into both a shift in preference towards global brand owners with sustainable processes, as well as political action from government to introduce legislation and policies that support plastic recycling measures.

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