‘Deep collaboration’ has helped drive plastics recycling progress

Plastics Recycling Show Europe returns to RAI Amsterdam from June 19-20.  Billed as the world’s largest event dedicated to plastics recycling, Matt Barber, global events director at Crain Communications, told Packaging Scotland about the show’s history and what to expect this year.

Matt Barber

Q) What’s the history of PRS Europe and why should visitors attend this year?

A) PRS Europe first began life as Plastics Recycling Expo which took place in Telford in the UK in 2013 and 2014 in collaboration with Plastics Recyclers Europe. In 2015 the event was due to be held in Brussels, but was cancelled at the last minute due to a terrorist incident in the city. Quite by chance the same thing happened in 2016, after which the decision was made to move to the RAI in Amsterdam, where the event has been held ever since.

Compared to today, those early events were relatively small with less than 100 exhibitors, but the momentum around plastics recycling has built amazingly quickly over the last few years. The growth of PRS Europe has been truly phenomenal since our first post-Covid hybrid event in late 2021.

Q) What prompted the decision to expand the exhibition space again?

A) PRS Europe expanded into a second hall at the RAI in 2023 and as space had already sold out well before the show, our initial plans were to expand into a third hall for 2024. However, within a few months it quickly became apparent we needed even more space and were able to secure a fourth hall.

We are now planning how to expand the event further for 2025. We also held the first edition of PRS Middle East & Africa in Dubai last year. That event returns this September, while PRS Asia launches in Singapore in November and PRS India in Mumbai this December.

Q) How important is it to be constantly refreshing and enhancing an exhibition like this to stand out in a competitive events marketplace?

A) It’s true there is huge interest in plastics recycling today. At PRS Europe we are fortunate in having first mover advantage as the first event specifically dedicated to plastics recycling in Europe. We have now been able to grow our community to be firmly established as the world’s largest event of its type attracting 450 exhibitors this year. Last year we attracted over 8,500 attendees from over 80 countries, with even more expected this year.

Key attractions of the event that help to mark us apart include our close collaboration with Plastics Recyclers Europe, the free-to-attend two-day conference and our hosting of the Plastics Recycling Awards Europe. Last year in recognition of the growing importance of chemical recycling within the whole plastics recycling value chain, we added an informative chemical recycling timeline, a feature which we are developing further this year too. Beyond that, the energy, diversity and innovation of our exhibitor community also plays a vital role in bringing together new ways to improve the circular use of plastics in every application from packaging to automotive components.

Q) What can you tell us about new exhibitors who’ll be appearing at PRSE for the first time?

A) The fact that our exhibitors come from all parts of the plastics recycling value chain has been a driver of the event’s success from day one.

We now attract virtually all of the sector’s major players including plastics recycling machinery and equipment suppliers, plastic material suppliers and compounders, processors, mechanical and chemical plastics recyclers, waste management specialists and industry associations. With over 100 new exhibitors this year, we are attracting companies from more countries across Europe as well as globally, particularly Turkey, the Middle East, India, China and Asia as well as North America.

Q) What trends are you seeing in the plastics recycling sector at the moment? Are you excited by the level of innovation in the industry?

A) Yes it is exciting to see speed with which innovation in plastics recycling technologies have developed in recent years.

The EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) regulations and indeed global legislative trends are driving the circular and sustainable use of plastics that is so essential to our modern way of life. At the same time consumer demand to improve sustainability is just as important and major consumer brands are making real changes in the use of recycled and recyclable materials. Even cutting-edge AI technology has a role to play in enhancing the sorting of recyclates and the traceability of materials.

Much of the progress being made relies on deep collaboration from every part of the sector, which is why many innovations actually start with conversations at PRS Europe.

Q) What are some of the highlights we can expect from the conference sessions?

A) I am delighted that our keynote speaker this year is Emmanuelle Maire, head of unit ‘Circular economy, Sustainable Production and Consumption’, DG Environment at the European Commission. She will join Ton Emans, president of Plastics Recyclers Europe for the opening keynote session examining the way forward for plastic recycling in Europe.

Emmanuelle Maire

Hugo-Maria Schally – adviser for international environmental negotiations, DG Environment, European Commission is also a speaker and many major FMCG brands are represented including Mars, Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive and IKEA.

Two days of conference sessions will cover the latest political, legislative, market and technological developments in plastics recycling. Key topics will include the future of plastic recycling in Europe, market analysis and forecasts, and in-depth analysis of the EU legislative landscape.

In particular, the spotlight will be on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), alongside dedicated sessions on measures to achieve recycled content targets and explore the latest advancements in chemical recycling.

In parallel, panel discussions will promote the debate on possible strategies for enhancing and harmonising collection and sorting, design for recycling,  and the latest updates on the advancement of plastics circularity on a global scale.

The dedicated plastic streams focus sessions are also always popular and this year focus on the challenges and opportunities in the recycling of PET, PO films, PVC, HDPE, PP and ELV & WEEE.

Q) Do you have many UK-based exhibitors/visitors?

A) Every year we get increased footfall coming from the UK. We are delighted that the British Plastics Federation are supporting the event this year and have their own stand at the show.

It’s also good to see more companies like polymer producer Luxus, who are exhibiting for the first time.

Q) What impact can winning a Plastics Recycling Europe Award have for a business?

A) This year sees the seventh edition of the Plastics Recycling Awards Europe and interest has grown every year.

Plastic Packaging is one of the most popular and hotly contested of our seven award categories.

The recognition that comes from winning is highly sought after and every entry that qualifies as a finalist is also highlighted in a visual display area at the show. This always attracts a great deal of visitor interest.

An increasing trend among our winners is the number that come from a successful collaboration between two or more companies. That might be a consumer brand, a packaging manufacturer, a recycler and a polymer compounder, all working together to achieve the truly circular use of plastics.

Register to visit PRS Europe at: https://www.prseventeurope.com/