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01-17-2018

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.

  • First Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans: "We need to invest in innovative new technologies that protect our citizens and our environment while keeping our industry competitive." (© European Commission)

    First Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans: "We need to invest in innovative new technologies that protect our citizens and our environment while keeping our industry competitive" (© European Commission)

  • The EU's new plastics strategy will help reduce plastic waste on land and at sea, while opening up new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and creation of high-quality jobs, said Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the Commission responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness. "This is a great opportunity for the European industry to take global leadership in new technologies and materials. Consumers will be able to make a conscious decision in favor of the environment" (© European Commission)

    The EU's new plastics strategy will help reduce plastic waste on land and at sea, while opening up new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and creation of high-quality jobs, said Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the Commission responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness. "This is a great opportunity for the European industry to take global leadership in new technologies and materials. Consumers will be able to make a conscious decision in favor of the environment" (© European Commission)

  • Recycling rates of the European Union in comparison: Only 40% of plastic packaging is recycled (© European Commission)

    Recycling rates of the European Union in comparison: Only 40% of plastic packaging is recycled (© European Commission)

  • Concerns in the general public: People are particularly worried about the effects of plastic on health and the environment (© Eurobarometer)

    Concerns in the general public: People are particularly worried about the effects of plastic on health and the environment (© Eurobarometer)

  • What the population wants: The first target for change is the industry (© Eurobarometer)

    What the population wants: The first target for change is the industry (© Eurobarometer)

  • Disposable items found on beaches (© Joint Research Center of the European Commission, 2017)

    Disposable items found on beaches (© Joint Research Center of the European Commission, 2017)

  • Key data of the plastics industry in Europe (© European Commission)

    Key data of the plastics industry in Europe (© European Commission)

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Commercial - the next slide will be displayed in seconds - skip

Commercial - the next slide will be displayed in seconds - skip

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.

Mobilize Investments

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.

Next Steps

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.

Additional information
  • 01-17-2018

    Plastic Producers Launch "Plastics 2030"

    PlasticsEurope Welcomes new European Plastics Strategy

    In the context of the European Commission announcement, the association publishes its commitment to help build a viable and resource-efficient Europe.   more

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