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.
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 Turkey (14%).
Malaysia was the largest destination for exports of plastic (21% of total extra-EU plastic exports), followed by Turkey (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.
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%).