As European citizens, we are told to separate our household waste, and many of us do dutifully. The ketchup bottle you rinsed and threw in the right bin at home might disappear from your life with the local waste truck.

In return for your separation efforts, you could expect a circular waste system, where packaging waste is recycled and used again and again. This is what plastic producers and politicians want you to believe. But this image of how waste is dealt with in Europe, one of the richest places on earth, is an illusion.

About 60 per cent of your packaging waste is not recycled. It gets either burnt in incinerators, shipped out of sight or dumped in landfills – legally or illegally. And while piles of waste become bigger and oceans and landscapes more polluted, the production of plastic is on a steep rise. It's expected to have tripled by 2060.

Team members

Nico Schmidt

Nico Schmidt studied cultural science in Hildesheim and Berlin.

Nico Schmidt

Maria Maggiore

Maria Maggiore has been reporting on European issues from Brussels for twenty years

Maria Maggiore

Attila Kálmán

Attila Kálmán is an investigative and political journalist from Budapest.

Attila Kálmán

Wojciech Cieśla

Wojciech Ciesla (Poland) is member of Investigate Europe team.

Wojciech Cieśla
€28.750 granted on 22/08/2022

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