Back EU exports of recyclable products rose in 2020


© Larina Marina/

Logo Statistics Explained

In 2020, the EU exported 80.3 million tonnes of recyclable products (paper, plastic and glass) outside of the EU, a 4% increase compared to 2019. On the other hand, imports amounted to 34.7 million tonnes, a 10% decrease compared to 2019.

In terms of exports, in 2020, paper was the most exported recyclable product outside of the EU (60.8 million tonnes), followed by plastic (15.9 million tonnes) and glass (3.7 million tonnes).

In the same year, 22.2 million tonnes of paper were imported, accounting for over half of all recyclable products imported from outside of the EU. The second-largest category was glass (6.4 million tonnes), followed by plastic 6.1 million tonnes.

Infographic: Extra-EU trade in recyclable products

Source dataset: ds-645593

India, Malaysia and United Kingdom: main export destinations

India was the largest destination for exports of paper from the EU in 2020 (24% of total extra-EU paper exports), followed by Indonesia (20%) and Türkiye​ (14%).

Malaysia was the largest destination for exports of plastic (21% of total extra-EU plastic exports), followed by Türkiye (18%) and the United Kingdom (17%).

In 2020, glass was predominantly exported to the United Kingdom (42% of total extra-EU glass export), with Switzerland (14%) and the United States (7%) following behind.

Infographic: Main EU trade partners for exports of recylables 2020

Source dataset: ds-645593

United Kingdom: top supplier of recyclable products to the EU

Extra-EU imports of recyclable products came predominantly from the United Kingdom, which accounted for 36% of total extra-EU paper imports, and 41% of both extra-EU plastic and glass imports.

The second-largest imports of paper came from the United States (25% of extra-EU paper imports), followed by Switzerland (16%). Plastic imports also came from Norway (10%) and the United States (9%). Switzerland was the second-largest importer of glass (21%), followed by the United States (11%).

Infographic: Main EU trade partners for imports of recylables 2020

Source dataset: ds-645593

For more information:

  • Statistics Explained article on international trade in recyclable products
  • Database in international trade in goods
  • Dedicated section on international trade in goods
  • The United Kingdom is considered as an extra-EU partner country for the EU for the whole period covered by this article. However, the United Kingdom was still part of the internal market until the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), meaning that data on trade with the United Kingdom were still based on statistical concepts applicable to trade between the EU Member States. Consequently, while imports from any other extra-EU trade partner are grouped by country of origin, the United Kingdom data reflect the country of consignment. In practice this means that the goods imported by the EU from the United Kingdom were physically transported from the United Kingdom but part of these goods could have been of other origin than the United Kingdom. For this reason, data on trade with the United Kingdom are not fully comparable with data on trade with other extra-EU trade partners.


To contact us, please visit our User Support page.

For press queries, please contact our Media Support.