Is a new plastics economy looming on the horizon?

Europe: The EU wants to lay the foundations to 'a new plastics economy', so it declares in its latest plastics strategy report. In line with this vision, the design and production of plastics and plastic products will fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs while more sustainable materials are developed and promoted.

The European Commission has dedicated itself to ensuring that all plastic packaging will be recyclable by 2030 – this makes up almost 60% of the EU plastics waste stream. In its new strategy report on plastics, it argues that the EU is ‘best placed’ to lead the transition to the plastics of the future.

Turning the tide

‘Around 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated in Europe every year. Less than 30% is collected for recycling,’ it is noted. Of this amount, a significant share leaves the EU to be treated in countries where different environmental standards may apply.

It is also pointed out that an estimated 150 000 to 500 000 tonnes of post-consumer plastics enter the EU’s oceans every year.

In order to turn the tide, the report calls for action at EU level.

‘Yet the private sector, together with national and regional authorities, cities and citizens, will also need to mobilise,’ it is contended. Additionally, international engagement will be necessary ‘to drive change outside Europe’s borders’.

Economic incentives

‘We strongly welcome that the huge CO2 savings allowed by plastics recycling are explicitly acknowledged in the Strategy report’, comments EuRIC secretary general Emmanuel Katrakis. Recycling 15 million tons of plastics per year by 2030 would save CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 15 million cars off the road per year, he adds.

‘Currently, the market fails to internalise these environmental benefits in prices. Stimulating the demand for recycled plastics by rewarding them through EU-wide economic incentives and by incorporating more recycled plastics in new products will certainly be amongst the most important drivers to achieve the Strategy’s ambitious objectives,’ Katrakis remarks.

As he puts it: ‘The road is long, but quick wins are needed especially with China’s import restrictions on plastics scrap.’

Binding measures a must

Katrakis observes that voluntary commitments ‘are part of the equation’ but binding measures will certainly be needed to provide market operators with sufficient predictability to make long-term investments and increase the uptake of recycled plastics.

 

Curious? The entire report titled “European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy” is available here.

 



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