Czech Republic caught up in plastic waste disposal crisis in Europe

China’s ban on plastic waste imports has already impacted most European states and the Czech Republic is no exception. Plastic waste is ending up on waste dumps and an increasing amount of sorted plastic waste is being burnt in incineration plants together with mixed waste.

Photo: Vladan DokoupilPhoto: Vladan Dokoupil China’s decision to ban plastic waste imports has had a nation-wide impact. Czechs who jumped on the sorted waste bandwagon late, have become European leaders in waste sorting –particularly in sorting plastics. Now there’s nowhere to put it.

Like other European states the country relied heavily on China for plastics waste exports. Plastics which were exported to China via other European states are now piling up on dumps or are simply being burnt together with mixed waste.

Environmental experts are ringing alarm bells, noting that Europe’s dependence on China in this respect had severely limited the number of recycling plants which are now unable to cope with the situation. Waste is piling up at recycling plants and processing facilities and the price is going up.

Petr Havelka from the Czech Association of Waste Disposal Companies says municipalities are already feeling the pinch. Firms have started upping the price – from garbage-collections services to the traditional landfill or incinerator companies. Plastic waste is piling up and companies are sending towns and cities higher bills for taking sorted plastic waste off their hands.

The Environment Ministry claims that these hikes are unjustified and that the Chinese ban concerns unsorted plastics which contain a high degree of other, often toxic, substances. The Czech system of sorting plastics is highly advanced and should give us an advantage in this respect once the chaos surrounding the situation subsides, the ministry says.

Havelka counters that in view of China’s new policy – which is already starting to affect paper and cardboard waste as well – Europe needs to revise its waste policy and make long-term plans which would secure more sorted waste processing on the continent.