All roads lead to Amsterdam for ‘buoyant’ plastics recycling industry

Key stakeholders from within the plastics recycling sector will descend on Amsterdam shortly when the Plastics Recycling Show Europe (PRSE) returns to the Dutch city. Packaging Scotland recently spoke to Matt Barber, PRSE event director, about what visitors can expect, how the conversation around plastics recycling has evolved since the last show in 2019, and why it feels fantastic to be organising a face-to-face event again.

THE expanded Plastics Recycling Show Europe (PRSE) is set to make a welcome return to the RAI Amsterdam on November 4 and 5.

Despite last year’s event being cancelled due to the pandemic, exhibitor numbers are up almost 50% on 2019 and the floorspace has grown by 40%, highlighting the incredible appetite for innovation within the rapidly changing industry right now.

This year will mark the fifth edition of the free-to-attend exhibition and conference and will feature more than 175 exhibitors including Berry Bpi Group, EREMA, Lindner Recyclingtech, Tomra Sorting, and Veolia.

Key figures from the plastics and recycling sectors will showcase the latest products, technology, and solutions, while the conference and speaker line-up will explore the major trends and hottest topics affecting the industry.

The winners of this year’s Plastics Recycling Awards Europe will also be announced on Day Two of the exhibition, while last year’s winners will all have their products showcased too, having been deprived the opportunity of a physical event in 2020.

Matt Barber, PRSE event director at Crain Communications, told Packaging Scotland the exhibition is ‘long-awaited and very welcome’.

“It’s been a very difficult 20 months for the events industry,” he said. “I’m thrilled that we’re able to run the show in November. We’ve actually seen some very positive growth since 2019. We’ve got a very buoyant sector. There’s definitely the appetite for this event, both from exhibitors and, by the looks of registration, from visitors as well.”

Matt revealed the absence of live events over the past 20 months has ‘absolutely’ served to remind people of the importance of face-to-face interaction.

“We ran virtual events and they’ve been very successful,” he explained. “We ran one at the end of last year, which had some great engagement. We had over 2,000 attendees and nearly 1,600 video calls between the exhibitors and visitors, which was fantastic, but you can’t get away from that face-to-face business. If you’re going round a show and there’s machinery, engineers like to see and touch them, they like to be involved and there’s a natural conversation you can have face-to-face. I think that has been missed.”

While PRSE signals a return to live exhibitions, there will be a hybrid element to the event this year for those who are still unable to attend in person. ‘Virtual’ visitors will be able to ask questions and have video calls with exhibitors.

Reflecting on the growth of PRSE in recent years, Matt believes the show has become the ‘focal point’ for the plastics recycling sector in Europe, and with upcoming legislative changes and ambitious environmental targets, the need for new and innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing the sector is clear.

“(Plastics recycling) is still a very hot topic,” he said. “You’ve got the post-consumer recycling targets in Europe; you’ve also got the plastic packaging waste directive pushing things forward. That, along with the ongoing consumer pressure, has really helped drive this sector forward.

“We’re seeing a lot more of the traditional material suppliers and the emerging material suppliers aligning their brands and being part of this sector now. The biggest brands in the world are very much getting involved, sponsoring the event, taking exhibition stands. It’s evolving quite rapidly.”

Matt stated that the pandemic had brought about ‘many challenges’ for the plastics recycling sector, citing reports of collection supply being limited because people couldn’t get out to collect waste as easily as before.

“During the pandemic, we wanted to continue to engage with and help our audience, so we set up a PRSE community hub where our exhibitors could post videos of how they were dealing with the pandemic and the issues it was causing,” he revealed. “People would go on and view what others were doing. There have been many hurdles to overcome but, ultimately, the sector seems to be going forward quite nicely at the moment.”

A full conference programme has been organised, featuring sessions exploring the challenges and opportunities for mechanical recycling, covering PET, PVC and technical plastics, as well as an examination of the current status of polyolefin waste streams and a session looking at polypropylene and polystyrene recycling.

“There will be the usual high-brow mix to help businesses look at legislation and shape their businesses accordingly,” Matt added. “We’ll be promoting the latest innovations, excellence and best practice. There’s been a real demand this year for people to be part of the conference programme. We’ve opened it up to allow a couple of brands to present papers at the event as well.”

One of the highlights of the two-day event looks certain to be the announcement of the winners of the Plastics Recycling Awards Europe, with accolades up for grabs in seven categories ranging from building/construction, recycling machinery innovation and plastic packaging products through to product technology, household/leisure, and automotive/electrical/electronic. The Plastics Recycling Ambassador of the Year will also be honoured.

Matt said, “The awards have really progressed and gained momentum over the years. We have 55 finalists this year.

“The response shows there’s so much investment and time still going into R&D in this sector, which is very encouraging. Across the board we’ve seen some wonderful entries from the largest brands in the world.

“The awards bang the drum for the plastics recycling industry. They highlight the excellence and innovation within the industry. When we set it up, it helped change perception as well. It wasn’t that long ago that people were looking at plastics recycling and thinking it would be good for coat-hangers!

“This really highlights how far we’ve come and the sort of innovation that’s going on.

“Winning puts you on a pedestal and is something to be immensely proud of. If you win one of our awards, it’s been judged by some of the finest people within the industry, it sets you apart from others, and is something you can really celebrate. Especially in tough times, it’s more important than ever to celebrate firms’ success.”

• For more information on PRSE 2021, visit