Technological watch

European circular plastics efforts gain new momentum

Efforts to advance plastics recycling have gathered pace as politicians and the industry close the year 2018.

The European Commission announced on 11 Dec the launch of an alliance with key industry stakeholders, covering the full plastics value chain, in a bid to reduce plastics littering and encourage further recycling.

The Circular Plastics Alliance will be a “high-level, multi-stakeholder platform” made up of key industry stakeholders from across the plastics value chain, from waste collectors to recyclers and primary producers to converters, brand owners and retailers – including. in particular, the packaging, construction and automotive sectors.

The alliance, said the EC, will aim to improve the economics and quality of plastics recycling in Europe.

In particular, it will strengthen the “match” between supply and demand for recycled plastics, which has been identified as key to a well-functioning EU market of recycled plastics.

The new initiative is to support the EC in achieving the European Plastics Strategy objective of using 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics in new products on the EU market by 2025.

The Alliance will pursue three main operational objectives:

- Fostering short-term, voluntary and coordinated actions and investments by key industry stakeholders. Such actions and investments, said the EC, could cover separate collection of plastic waste; harmonised reporting on collection and recycling rates and volumes; investments in sorting and recycling facilities; voluntary standards on the 'design for recycling' of plastic products and others.

- Reporting on the obstacles which may hamper stakeholders' efforts to fully deliver on their pledges and to reach the target set for 2025. Some of those obstacles already identified include lack of infrastructure, insufficient access to finance and standardisation gaps.

- Monitoring progress made towards more plastics recycling and more uptake of recycled plastics in Europe. The monitoring, according to EC, should help identify the gaps in the supply and demand for different recycled plastics. In parallel, new voluntary commitments will be encouraged.

"Close cooperation within and between all the links in the plastics value chain is essential if we are to achieve a true circular plastics economy and ensure that recycled plastics find their way to new products, instead of into landfills or the incinerators,” said European Commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development.

The new alliance, according to Timmermans, aims to facilitate this cooperation, building on the commitments the plastics industry has already made and encouraging even more ambitious action.

“Europe already leads this, and Europe will be the first one to reap the benefits as well. This is the best way to show the world that a circular plastic economy is good for the business and good for the environment," he added.

As the EC set out its plans for the alliance, 13 major organisations from the entire plastics value chain hosted their first annual event “The EU Plastics Industries – Towards Circularity” on 11 Dec and presented the status of their voluntary commitments and pledges to the media, NGOs and representatives of the European Commission.

The event was opened by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, and centred on the plastics industry’s determination to ‘embrace’ the circular economy.

The common message by the speakers was that the industry had developed an extensive and ambitious set of voluntary measures to close the loop for plastics.

All commitments, the speakers noted, will be monitored and the industry is ready to work closely together with authorities and other stakeholders to ensure the goals are reached.

The presenters also called for support of national authorities, European legislators and consumers alike for the targets to be achieved.

Some industry representatives also took the opportunity to warn against the negative impacts of the proposed single-use plastics directive on businesses and employment in the European Union, in addition to possible unintended negative environmental impacts.

Presentations were made by the European Manufacturers of Expanded Polystyrene (EUMEPS), European Plastics Converters (EuPC), Polyolefin Circular Economy Platform (PCEP), PET Sheet Europe, Petcore Europe, PlasticsEurope, Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), VinylPlus, International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE), European Carpet and Rug Association (ECRA), European Disposables and Nonwovens Association (EDANA) and the European Federation of Bottled Water (EFBW), 

The event “The EU Plastics Industries – Towards Circularity” will be organised on an annual basis to guarantee open and public reporting and a transparent dialogue with stakeholders on the industry’s progress.

Publication date: 12/12/2018

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This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2019-05-09