EU plastics strategy welcomed by MEPs and industy

MEPs have joined the business and recycling communities in giving a guarded welcome to the European Commission’s much-vaunted plastics strategy.

Plastic waste | Photo credit: Fotolia

The strategy, unveiled earlier this week, sets an ambitious target - by 2030, all plastics packaging placed on the EU market should be reusable or recyclable in a cost-effective manner.

It says that more than half of plastics waste in general should be recyclable by 2030 (today it is less than 30 per cent).

MEPs from various political groups have welcomed the strategy.


S&D group Vice-Chair Kathleen Van Brempt said, “The European Union will be the first in the world to adopt a strategy to put an end to plastic litter, both on land and sea. Therefore, we are very glad to see that the Commission is ready to take the lead in this journey of no return. This is a global challenge in which we will all need to do our part if we do not want to end up with more plastic than fish in our oceans.”

Her colleague Simona Bonafè, who was Parliament’s rapporteur on the waste package, said, “We fully endorse the Commission’s objective to make all plastic material reusable and recyclable by 2030. This is in line with the outcome of the agreement on the Waste Package and in particular with the Parliament’s demand to strengthen the essential requirement for packaging.

“Now the Commission has to make a serious commitment to extend eco-design to the resource efficiency requirements. We are also waiting for the Commission’s proposal on single use plastic.”

The ALDE group’s Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy said, “Plastic is not fantastic - it is causing great damage to our natural environment and our over-reliance on it needs to be tackled at a global level.

Europeans produce more than 25 million tonnes plastic waste each year. In every region in the world, there are seabirds with plastic in their stomachs. The Presidents of both the European

Commission and the European Parliament should start by ending the purchasing of plastic water bottles for use within their institutions.” 

Greens/EFA group climate spokesperson Bas Eickhout said, “There can be no room for unnecessary single use plastics in the European economy.

“They create a wide range of environmental problems and we welcome any proposals that will see their use reduced. We also welcome the proposal for a new directive on port reception facilities to cut down on marine litter.”

He added, “It is good to see that the Commission is finally moving to ban environmentally damaging oxo-plastics, as well as the use of intentional micro-plastics that cause real harm in our oceans.

We are pleased that they will also look at the unintentional release of micro-particles from tyres, textiles and paint. We would remind the Commission that they still have unfinished business to do on the directive on cutting single-use plastic bags.”

Eickhout said, “Citizens will only feel the full benefits of these proposals if they are implemented in full.”

Industry has also reacted to the new plastics strategy. BusinessEurope Director General Markus Beyrer said, “European industry is fully committed to shifting to a more circular Europe, but the circular economy needs to make business sense. We welcome the plastics strategy, which is relatively balanced between environmental and economic considerations.”

Beyrer went on, “However, we would like to see more clarity on the potential EU-wide fiscal measures as well as the proposed ‘private-led’ fund for financing investments for innovations and technologies. We support the Commission’s intention to first enter into a dialogue with stakeholders on these matters.”

The European plastics recycling industry, meanwhile, said it “welcomes and fully supports” the strategy which, if implemented “swiftly and efficiently”, can serve as the foundation for creating a “truly sustainable and circular plastics market.”

Plastic Recyclers Europe President Ton Emans said, “The Commission made the right analysis of the issues surrounding plastics. As for end-of-life, the market barriers have been clearly identified and the planned actions can contribute towards making plastics circular. The plastics industry will have to adapt to the changes ahead to enable sustainable production, consumption and end-of-life treatment for all plastics.”

He added, “Quality recycling can only be achieved if products are designed for recycling, collected, sorted efficiently and treated through advanced recycling processes. Our industry is ready to cooperate with all the interested stakeholders to make the necessary changes in the plastics and waste markets in Europe.”

The EU is searching for ways to increase recycling of plastic, as waste piles up in ports after China banned imports of “foreign garbage” from the start of 2018.

Announcing the new policy push on Tuesday, Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said the EU is mulling a tax, curbs on throw-away items like plastic bags, imposing quality standards and new rules at ports among other restrictions.

“We have all this raw material, and from the beginning of the year now even more, because China will not take our waste,” Katainen said.

The Commission is eyeing environmental taxes - including revenue from its carbon cap-and-trade Emission Trading System (ETS) - as a way to plug the whole left in its budget when Britain’s exit from the EU at the end of 2020 deprives it of revenue.

Such proposals are opposed by some member states, who prefer to keep the revenues in national coffers, and environmental campaigners, who want to see the proceeds reinvested in efforts to stem pollution.

European budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger tweeted that he had won the support of fellow Commission officials for a levy on the production of polluting plastics. 

Oil-derived plastic mostly ends up in landfills or incinerated, with less than 30 per cent of 25 million tonnes of plastic waste generated each year being recycled in Europe.

Member states and the European Parliament reached an agreement last month to set a legally-binding target for the EU to recycle 55 per cent of plastic packaging waste by 2030 and a ban on landfilling separately collected waste.

The Commission said it will also introduce measures to curb ocean-polluting microplastics, such as those used in cosmetics. New port reception facilities will seek to streamline waste management to ensure less gets dumped in the ocean.

“More and more it is becoming a health problem because it is degrading, going to little chips, fish are eating it and it is coming back to our dinner table,” Katainen said.


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