ECThe Green Paper on plastic waste aims to launch a structured discussion about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle.
The European Commission has published a Green Paper on plastic waste to launch a structured discussion about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, said: “Managing plastic waste is a major challenge in terms of environmental protection, but it's also a huge opportunity for resource efficiency. In a circular economy where high recycling rates offer solutions to material scarcity, I believe plastic has a future. I invite all stakeholders to participate in this process of reflection on how to make plastic part of the solution rather than the problem.”
Potočnik said that plastic is often perceived as a cheap and disposable material in our “throw-away” society, and therefore recycling rates are low. He added that the Green Paper underlines the key role that plastic plays in many industrial processes and applications, and the potential economic gains of higher recycling rates.
“As the world population grows and natural resources become scarcer, recycling plastics will be an alternative to the exploitation of virgin resources,” he said. “To speed this change, better framework conditions are needed to support eco-design and environmental innovation, with waste prevention and recycling factored in to the design of plastic products.”
Current EU environmental legislation doesn't specifically address the particular challenges posed by plastic waste. The Green Paper aims to collect facts and stakeholders' views on the impacts of plastic waste and a way of mitigating them through a European strategy.
The consultation, which includes 26 questions, will last until the beginning of June 2013. The result will feed into further policy action in 2014 as part of a broader waste policy review, which will look in particular at the existing targets for waste recovery and landfill as well as an ex-post evaluation of five directives covering various waste streams.
The European plastics industry has welcomed the Commission’s Green Paper on Plastic Waste as a catalyst for joint action amongst different key players to achieve the vision of ‘Zero Plastics to Landfill by 2020’.
“The review of the Landfill Directive in 2014 offers an opportunity to make a step-change in the EU's resource efficiency policy,” explained Dr Wilfried Haensel, Executive Director of PlasticsEurope. “The inclusion of a landfill ban on plastics waste in the Directive will stimulate the plastic recycling sector and will make more plastic waste available for efficient energy recovery to produce electricity and heat. This ultimately leads to the creation of jobs and helps Europe to be less dependent on energy imports.”
Speaking at the Waste Free Oceans conference held in Brussels on March 7th, EuPC’s Managing Director, Alexandre Dangis, welcomed the launch of the Green Paper. “At times when future polymer sourcing for European plastics converters remains unpredictable, and uncertain, there is a clear need to optimise the collection and sorting of plastics waste in order for the plastics industry to be more resource efficient,” he said.