Less recyclable plastic waste sent to China

© Hollandse Hoogte / Wiebe Kiestra Fotografie
Last year, China’s share in Dutch exports of recyclable plastic waste was 2.7 percent. In 2010, still nearly half of all plastic waste generated by businesses and households had China as a foreign destination. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on recently conducted research on waste flows in international trade.

This news release only focuses on recyclable waste. Other waste is sent across the border as well, for example mineral waste and waste from the food industry. These waste flows are not included in this research.

The total amount of recyclable plastic waste exported to customers abroad in 2018 stood at 361 thousand tonnes, 6 percent down on the previous year. Exports of this type of waste have declined year-on-year since 2016.

The bulk of plastic waste is re-used domestically. In 2016, around 58 percent (683 thousand tonnes) of recyclable plastic waste was delivered to Dutch waste processing companies.

Exports of plastic waste destined for recycling (1,000 tonnes)
 China and Hong KongOther countries
2010195210
2011178203
2012184242
2013134323
2014148284
2015135371
2016141349
201788296
201810352

Less plastic waste sent to China, more to Germany

In 2018, over three-quarters of plastic waste were destined for a country within Europe. Germany was one of the most important destinations and recorded the strongest increase compared to 2010. Plastic waste exports to Asian countries (other than China) such as Indonesia and Vietnam rose during this period as well.

Last year, China (inclusive of Hong Kong in this news release) launched a campaign against environmentally harmful waste and already informed the World Trade Organization on this in mid-2017. This led to an import ban on 24 types of waste including car tyres, textiles, plastics and glass. Chinese imports of recyclable metals and paper contracted as well between 2010 and 2018, by 73 and 58 percent respectively.

Export destinations for recyclable plastic waste (1,000 tonnes)
 20182010
Germany8336
Belgium5461
United Kingdom4518
Indonesia250
Ireland2428
India2027
Turkey161
Vietnam141
France1416
Italy123
China (incl. Hong Kong)10195
Other countries4420

No decline in metal and textile waste exports

For most types of waste, exports were less substantial in 2018 than in 2010. Textiles and metals were an exception. Last year, the Netherlands exported 6,847 thousand tonnes of recyclable metal waste, 3 percent more than eight years previously. In the same period, exports of paper waste and plastic waste shrank by 25 and 11 percent respectively.

Developments in waste exports by type, 2010-2018 (% change)
 Exports
Metals3
Textiles2
Plastics-11
Combustion waste-15
Paper-25
Other-10

Export price of textile waste the highest

The highest yield comes from the export of textile waste, bringing in 83 eurocents per kilogram in 2018. The export price of metal waste stood at 60 eurocents per kilogram, while recyclable plastic was sold for 40 eurocents.

Waste export prices (euros per kg)
 TextilesMetalsPlasticsCombustion wastePaper
20100.670.670.360.120.16
20110.760.820.420.270.18
20120.840.790.430.200.15
20130.960.630.450.270.15
20140.910.620.430.200.15
20150.870.640.380.240.15
20160.840.500.350.410.16
20170.850.570.400.400.18
20180.830.600.400.320.16