22 November 2018 by Joshua Doherty

EU Commission attacks ‘weak’ plastic pledges

The European Commission has urged industry to go further with pledges to use recycled plastic in products. The call comes after an assessment of responses to its Plastics Strategy showed that demand for recycled plastic will fall well short of supply by 2025.

As part of the  strategy, which the Commission released in January 2018, the plastics sector was invited to submit proposals for how to “achieve the objective of a well-functioning EU market of recycled plastic”.

The Commission says more than 60 pledges were received from plastic recyclers and retailers.

Frans Timmermans (L) and Jyrki Katainen both urged more businesses to come forward with suggestions to use more recycled plastic to address the gap

Releasing its pleminary assessment of the proposals released earlier this week, the Commission said at least 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics could be supplied by 2025 if the pledges are fully delivered.

However, on the demand side, which covers retailers using recycled material, there have only been pledges to use 5 million tonnes of recycled plastic.

According to the commission, this demonstrates “that more will be needed to achieve the objective of a well-functioning EU market of recycled plastic”.

Commenting on the assessment, first vice-president of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, said that although they are grateful for the responses, it is not enough.

“While we are very grateful for the variety of contributions we received from different industry representatives, more needs to be done,” he explained.

Mr Timmermans added: “We will now analyse which should be the next steps to further boost the uptake of recycled plastics and close the gap between supply and demand. This is not only necessary for safeguarding our natural environment but also good for our economy as Europe leads the way.”

Pledgers

The list of 30 pledgers included companies such as Coca-Cola, IKEA, and Unilever. A number of associations with British members also made pledges including Plastics Recyclers Europe and the European Federation of Bottled Waters and a number of European plastic recyclers.

Pledges were encouraged to the commission as part of the strategy, and despite so far receiving more pledges to provide the material than use it, the commission says it hopes this will change in the future.

“While the official pledging exercise announced in the Plastics Strategy is now closed, we are well aware that more companies are preparing their commitments – which we strongly encourage,” the Commission’s analysis said.

“The demand for recycled plastics may increase quickly if good quality material becomes available in stable quantities and at competitive prices….Further actions should therefore be envisaged to support an increased demand for recycled plastics”.

Next steps

The Commission says it will now analyse the pledges in more detail and publish the results of this detailed assessment in the first quarter of 2019.

The European Commission building in Brussels, where chiefs have remained upbeat the supply gap will close

It’s hoped that this would be able to help identify gaps between supply (recyclers) and demand (producers, converters, manufacturers) for the different plastic types, and guide future actions.

Vice-President of the Commission, Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “The pledging exercise clearly shows that big part of the European industry is committed to use plastics in a more sustainable manner.

“To be able to reap benefits in full, we need to develop a well-functioning market for recycled plastics. To this end we invite all relevant stakeholders to continue our joint work.”

‘Not enough’

The body representing waste management companies across Europe, FEAD, said the feedback shows that pledges are not sufficient and that “concrete action” needs to be taken through legislation.

In a statement, the body said that while it proves there is a demand of recycling plastics from the industry, this is not enough.

“The report shows that the EU industry is dedicated to recycling plastics as 10 million tons of recycled plastics could be supplied by 2025 if the pledges are fully delivered. However, figures show that regarding demand, only 5 million tons are to be expected,” the statement said.

It added: “This proves that pledges are not enough and that concrete action needs to be taken in the form of legislation. This is why it is now more important than ever for a target of 35% recycled plastic in beverage bottles to become mandatory by 2025.”

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