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EU weighs in on plastic debate

Following on from new measures on plastic pollution at home, the European Commission has adopted its own sweeping reforms with a first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.

Following on from new measures on plastic pollution at home, the European Commission has adopted its own sweeping reforms with a first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics.

The European Plastic Strategy, published on 16 January, comes just days after Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled a UK plan to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste as part of the government’s new 25 Year Environment Plan.

With a target to make all plastic packaging recyclable within the next 12 years, the EU plan is perhaps more ambitious than the one adopted by UK government, but both promise measures that will echo through industry and force changes in their production, consumption and waste management.

Headlines

The European strategy focuses on five key areas:

Making recycling profitable for businesses: New rules on packaging will be developed to improve recyclability of plastics on the market and increase demand for recycled plastic content 

Curbing plastic waste: New rules will be scoped out in 2018 to tackle single-use plastics, microplastics in products and labelling for biodegradable and compostable alternatives

Stopping litter at sea: New rules on port reception facilities will tackle sea-based marine litter to ensure waste generated on ships is not left behind

Driving investment and innovation: Support will be provided to member states and businesses to help minimise plastic waste at source, including an additional €100 million funding for smarter plastic materials and more efficient recycling processes

Spurring change across the world: The EU will work closer with international partners to support global solutions and international standards.

Jyrki Katainen, vice-president at the European Commission, said: “With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it.

“This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials. Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is true win-win.”

A future Europe-wide plastic tax has also not been ruled out by commissioners. 

Plan now

With increasing pressure from consumers combined with forthcoming interventions at both the national and European level, businesses are being encouraged to consider their whole-life approach to product and packaging design, including how to facilitate recycling at end-of-life.

In a statement, global environmental consultancy, Anthesis, has suggested that companies should consider a “packaging hot-spot analysis” which should include discussions with close suppliers and waste management providers.