Last year was the best on record for the plastics mechanical recycling industry in Brazil. The South American country mechanically recycled 25.6% of the post-consumer residues it generated in 2022, a 46% increase since records began in 2018.
The data was compiled by MaxiQuim, a business valuation company in the chemical industry, and ordered by the Plastics Chain Incentive Plan (PICPlast, from the Portuguese), a partnership between the Brazilian plastic association (Abiplast) and the Brazilian petrochemical giant Braskem.
Data shows that the Brazilian plastic recycling industry consumed 1.7 million tonnes of plastic in 2022, an 8.5% increase from 2021. Of these, just over 1.3 million tonnes are post-consumer residues while around 421,000 tonnes originated in post-industrial residues. Of the total plastic waste recycled, rigid and flexible packaging as well as disposable packaging accounts for 1.1 million tonnes, representing 69.3% of the total.
“We can see an increase in post-consumer household plastic going for recycling,” said Maurício Jaroski, director of sustainable chemistry at MaxiQuim. “It doesn't seem like much, just 1.6 percentage points, but in terms of volume it's quite a considerable figure. The greater growth in household waste to the detriment of non-domestic and post-industrial waste is a positive point, given that it is lower quality waste and therefore more difficult to recycle," Jaroski added.
Of the 4,327,468 tonnes of post-consumer plastic consumed in 2022 in Brazil, the country mechanically recycled 1,106,368 tonnes, or 25.6%, 2.2 percentage points more than in the year before. Brazil produced over 1,1 million tonnes of post-consumer resign (PCR), with rPET accounting for 38%, mainly water and soft drink bottles, followed by rHDPE (22%), rPP (18%), rLDPE/rLLDPE (15%), PS (3%), and PVC (2%). "The production of recycled resin grew across the board for all types of resins, with engineering plastics and PVC showing the highest percentage growth," Jaroski said.
These recycled resins were transformed into products for the personal hygiene, cosmetics and household cleaning industries (13.7%); beverages (11.5%); household utilities (10%); and construction and infrastructure products (9.4%), amongst others.
The Brazilian plastic recycling industry also grew its revenues in 2022. Gross sales hit BRL 4,721 million (€9,106 million), up from BRL 3,977 million in 2021, and BRL 2,412 million in 2018, a real increase of 57.0%.
"We can see 2022 as a period of organic growth for the recycling industry, since the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic dissipated throughout 2021. In addition, a greater number of recycled plastics production units were observed, especially in the Northeast region, which was the target of several investments," Jaroski explained.
There were 711 plastic recycling companies in Brazil in 2022, up from 677 in Brazil, according to the report. The figure is slightly lower than in 2018, when there were 716 companies. The industry also generated a lot of direct employment, with 18,892 jobs in 2022, up from 16,883 in 2021. In 2018, the figure stood at 18,882 direct jobs.
"We are very pleased with the results of the study as it shows that the efforts to develop and strengthen the plastics recycling industry in Brazil are yielding results,” said Simone Carvalho, a member of the PICPlast technical committee. “As well as the recycling rate reaching its highest percentage in five years, we also see an increase in the number of plants, the number of employees and the industry's turnover, which shows that the recycling industry has gained a significant foothold in the Brazilian economy," she concluded.