EU Mobilizes against Plastic Waste
Commission Presents European Plastics Strategy
Of the 25 million tons of plastic waste generated each year in Europe, less than 30% are collected for recycling. Further, plastics make up 85% of litter on the seaside worldwide. In this light, the European Commission has formulated a European strategy on how to deal with plastics in the EU in the future for the first time.
Only Recyclable Plastic Packaging from 2030
According to the plans, from 2030 all plastic packaging on the EU market should be recyclable; the consumption of disposable plastics is reduced and the intentional use of microplastics is limited. The aim is to protect the environment while at the same time laying the foundations for a new plastics industry, where design and manufacturing takes full account of reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed.
Together with the Plastics Strategy, the Commission has adopted a monitoring framework consisting of ten key indicators, covering each phase of the product life cycle, to measure progress in the transition to a circular economy at EU and on national levels. Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, has set up a new section on circular economy on its website, where the up-to-date data for all monitoring frame indicators and visualization tools are available.
Strong Cycle-Oriented Business Model
"The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by increasing recycling and reuse," said First Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans. "With the EU Plastics Strategy, we are driving a new, more cycle-oriented business model."
Jyrki Katainen, Commission Vice-President responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, added: "With our plastics strategy, we are laying the foundation for a new circular economy for plastics and mobilizing investment in this development."
As part of the new strategy, the European Union aims to make recycling a worthwhile business: New rules on packaging will improve the recyclability of plastics used in the market and increase the demand for recycled plastics. As more plastic is collected, better, larger recycling facilities should be set up. In addition, a standardized system for the separate collection and sorting of waste throughout the EU should be established. This will save around EUR 100 per ton collected. It also generates greater added value for a more competitive and resilient plastics industry.
Targeting Microplastics in Products
Concurrent plastic waste should be contained. According to the Commission, EU legislation has already led to a significant reduction in the use of plastic carrier bags in several member states. The new plans are now focused on other disposable plastics and fishing gear. For this purpose national awareness-raising campaigns will be supported. On the basis of interest group consultation and scientific evidence, the scope of new EU-wide rules on disposable plastics to be proposed in 2018 will be decided. Interest groups will have until 12 February to participate in the ongoing public consultation.
On the subject of micro-plastics the Commission had a closer look: It announced measures to restrict the use of microplastics in products. Also, logos for biodegradable and compostable plastics are to be specified.
Against Garbage in the Sea
New rules on port reception facilities are combating marine waste from sources at sea. They shall ensure that waste generated on ships or collected at sea is not left behind, but returned to land for proper management. According to the European Commission, measures to reduce the administrative burden on ports, ships and the responsible authorities are also included. This directive on port reception facilities will be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council for adoption in the next step.
The Commission will also provide national authorities and European companies with guidelines on how to minimize waste plastic at source. The EU wants to provide EUR 100 million for the development of smarter and more recyclable plastics, more efficient recycling processes and the removal of hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics.
The Commission will now initiate work on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and will develop guidelines for the separate collection and sorting of waste to be issued in 2019.
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