The first ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics has been adopted today (16 January) as part of what the EU describe as a “transition towards a more circular economy”.
Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of micro-plastics will be restricted.
Plastic recycling as a whole will remain at a 55% target.
The plans were unveiled earlier today in a press conference outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg. MEPs will debate the strategy in parliament tomorrow. The proposals add that “subject to Better Regulation requirements, the Commission will present the proposal on single-use plastics later in 2018.”
Under the new strategy, the EU stated it will increase the demand for plastic content and improve its recyclability by introducing new rules on packaging.
“With more plastic being collected, improved and scaled up recycling facilities should be set up, alongside a better and standardised system for the separate collection and sorting of waste across the EU. This will save around a hundred euros per tonne collected,” the document read.
There was no immediate promise of a European wide plastic tax.
The strategy also outlined that current EU legislation has already led to a reduction in plastic bag use in several member states.
“The new plans will now turn to other single-use plastics and fishing gear, supporting national awareness campaigns and determining the scope of new EU-wide rules to be proposed in 2018 based on stakeholder consultation and evidence,” the report explained.
It added: “The Commission will also take measures to restrict the use of microplastics in products, and fix labels for biodegradable and compostable plastics.”
An extra €100 million of financing will be made available to drive investment and innovation in the industry, with the hopes of finding ways to develop a more efficient recycling process and removing hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics.
The EU also confirmed it will work with “partners” around the world to come up with solutions and develop international standards.
Commenting on the proposals, First vice-president Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, explained that plastic is getting into “our water, food and even bodies” and added the only long-term solution is to reduce waste and recycle more. He said: With the EU Plastics Strategy we are also driving a new and more circular business model. We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive.”
According to statistics commissioned by the European Commission, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30% is collected for recycling.
There is currently a consultation for stakeholders to provide input, opinions and data for preparation of follow-up to the Plastics Strategy in relation to marine litter, particularly from single use plastics and fishing gear.
The consultation can be found here.
The UK’s ambitions were spelt out last week with recycling minister Theresa May pledging to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as part of the government’s 25 year Environment Plan.
She said: “I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership on plastics.. and we must reduce demand and increase recycling rates.”
Promising action at every stage of the chain, Mrs May said that she would “encourage manufacturers to take responsibility and rationalise the types of plastics they use.” She also said that the different types of plastics needed to be reduced.