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Trade in recyclable raw materials

04/03/2019

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Recycled materials can be re-introduced into the economy as new substances or products. However, some countries lack the capacity to deal with this form of waste and export much of their recyclable waste to other countries.

Since 2004, imports of recyclable waste from non-EU countries into the EU decreased significantly and stood at 5.9 million tonnes in 2018 (compared with 9.1 million tonnes in 2004, or -35%). The value of the recyclable raw materials imported from non-EU countries stood at €9.2 billion in 2018.

On the other hand, exports of recyclable raw materials from the EU to non-EU countries amounted to 36.8 million tonnes in 2018, an increase of 69% compared with the end of 2004. These exports were worth €14.0 billion in 2018.

 

Trade in recyclable raw materials, million tonnes

The list of recyclable raw materials includes plastics, paper and metals - see list of the codes.

Turkey and China main destinations

Turkey and China were the main destinations for the EU’s exports of recyclable raw materials. Since 2004, EU exports of such waste to Turkey have almost tripled and stood at around 12.8 million tonnes in 2018 (-4% compared with 2017). However, EU recyclable waste exports to China decreased by more than half from the peak of 12.4 million tonnes in 2012 to 5.1 million tonnes in 2018 (-46% compared with 2017).

India, which received 4.6 million tonnes of the EU’s recyclable waste in 2018 (+79% compared with 2017) was also a significant partner along with Indonesia, to which the EU sent 1.9 million tonnes of recyclable waste in 2018 (+98% compared with 2017).

 

Main destinations for EU's recyclable raw materials

Most recyclable waste into EU from China and Norway

The EU also receives recyclable waste from non-EU countries. The largest tonnage of recyclable raw materials were imported from China (1.6 million tonnes in 2018, down by -1% compared with 2017), Norway (1.1 million tonnes in 2018, up by +9% compared with 2017), and the United States (0.8 million tonnes in 2018, up by 8% compared with 2017). A significant decrease in recyclable waste imports was recorded from Russia: from 4.3 million tonnes in 2004 to 0.6 million tonnes in 2018 (-86%).

 

Main EU partners for imports of recyclable raw materials

To contact us: estat-user-support@ec.europa.eu