Environment

EU industry committed to recycling plastics

10 million tons of recycled plastics to be supplied by 2025

Following an EU-wide pledging campaign as part of the European Plastics Strategy, on November 20 the European Commission has given a preliminary assessment which shows that EU industry is significantly committed to recycling plastics – at least 10 million tons of recycled plastics could be supplied by 2025 if the pledges are fully delivered. However, on the demand side, only 5 million tons are expected so far, demonstrating that more will be needed to achieve the objective of a well-functioning EU market of recycled plastics.

By the end of October, the Commission received over 60 pledges and is now reviewing them in more detail to analyse their impact per plastic types on supply and demand aspects. The main pledges received came from plastics recyclers, industry associations for Expanded Polystyrene and brand owners mainly for PET packaging. While the official pledging exercise announced in the Plastics Strategy is now closed, the Commission is well aware that more companies are preparing their commitments – which the Commission strongly encourages.

Preliminary analysis indicates that pledges from recyclers would give enough recycled plastics to reach the EU target by 2025. However, as the demand for recycled plastics may increase quickly if good quality material becomes available in stable quantities and at competitive prices, based on the current pledges the demand for recycled plastics needs developing. Further actions should therefore be envisaged to support an increased demand for recycled plastics.

The Commission will now analyse the pledges in more detail and publish the results of this detailed assessment in the first quarter of 2019. This analysis will help identify gaps between supply (recyclers) and demand (producers, converters, manufacturers) for the different plastic types, and guide future actions, including the ongoing assessment of regulatory or economic incentives in targeted sectors such as the automotive, construction and packaging sectors that were announced in the Plastics Strategy.

The Commission will continue to strongly encourage initiatives that contribute to boosting the market of recycled plastics in the EU. The Commission will cooperate with stakeholders and facilitate close stakeholder collaboration across the supply chain to achieve this objective. A first stakeholder meeting will be organised early 2019.

The first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics, adopted on January 16 this year, is a part of the transition towards a more circular economy.

It will protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the Future of Europe. There is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU and by taking the lead in this transition, new investment opportunities and jobs may be created. 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 microplastics will be restricted.

“If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies. The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more. This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together. 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,” First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, warned.

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