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EU Circular Strategy Incorporates Plastics

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STRASBOURG, France, January 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – All plastic packaging on the market across the EU will be recyclable by 2030 under the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics adopted by the European Commission earlier this month, “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.

As part of this transition towards a more circular economy, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies.”

“The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more,” Timmermans said. “This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together.”

“With the EU Plastics Strategy we are also driving a new and more circular business model. We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive.”

There are over 1,000 different types of plastics, mainly derived from petroleum. Industry figures show the demand for European plastics amounted to 46.3 million tonnes in 2013. The main uses were packaging (39.6 percent), building and construction (20.3 percent), automotive (8.5 percent) and electronics (5.6 percent).

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that plastics production and the incineration of plastic waste give rise globally to approximately 400 million  tonnes of CO2 a year.

Recent trends show a decrease in landfilling and an increase in energy recovery and recycling.

Even so, Europeans generate 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling.

Marine plastic litter is especially harmful. Across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter. Studies have shown that plastics are reaching citizens’ lungs and dinner tables, with microplastics in air, water and food having an unknown impact on human health.

Building on the Commission’s past work, the new EU-wide strategy on plastics will tackle the issue head on. Timmermans says the strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution while fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the Future of Europe.

The European Commission finds that there is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. By taking the lead in this transition, the Commission says the EU will create new investment opportunities and jobs.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it. This will help to reduce plastic litter in land, air and sea while also bringing new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and high quality jobs.”

The goal is to protect the environment while at the same time laying the foundations for a new plastic economy, where the design and production of plastics fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed.

“This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials,” said Katainen. “Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is true win-win.”

PlasticsEurope is the overarching European plastics trade association. With centers in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris, its more than 100 member companies produce more than 90 percent of all polymers across the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

PlasticsEurope said its members welcome the publication of “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.”

“We, the European plastics manufacturers, are committed to ensure high rates of reuse and recycling with the ambition to reach 60 percent for plastic packaging by 2030. This will help achieve our goal of 100 percent reuse, recycling and recovery of all plastics packaging at European level by 2040”, said Karl-H. Foerster, executive director of PlasticsEurope.

To support its ambitious recycling goals, the Strategy for Plastics stresses the need to discourage the landfilling of plastics waste and recognizes that effective waste management systems are key to avoid littering and ensure that collected waste finds its way to proper treatment.

“This is a step in the right direction as no plastic should end up in the environment,” said Foerster. “Since 2011, the European plastics industry has been calling for Zero Plastics to Landfill. Only a legally binding landfill restriction on all recyclable and other recoverable post-consumer waste will put an end to the landfilling of all waste which can be used as a resource.”

“These measures, should be proportional, effective and harmonized at EU level,” said Foerster.

In this context, PlasticsEurope has made a voluntary commitment representing the plastics industry contribution to achieve a fully circular and resource efficient Europe. “Plastics 2030” sets a series of ambitious targets and initiatives up to 2030, in “a spirit of commitment to future generations.”

At the January 16 news conference announcing the new strategy, Vice-President Katainen said, “The Plastics Strategy is part of our Circular Economy Strategy. In the Circular Economy both words count. Without economic logic there is no Circular Economy. Without circulation our economy is not sustainable. That is why our aim with the Plastics Strategy is to create a Single Market – a true Single Market – for plastic waste.”

Click here for answers to the most frequently asked questions about the new plastics strategy.

Featured image: Members of Greenpeace groups protest in 62 cities in Germany against the pollution of the oceans. This bag of waste was collected on the banks of the Elbe River in Hamburg. March 19, 2016. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace Hamburg) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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