PlasticsEurope has called for a landfill ban on recyclable and other recoverable post-consumer waste by 2025.
The call is part of its recommendations for the EU’s upcoming Circular Economy Strategy as necessary actions to prioritise in order to improve resource efficiency in Europe.
“Our goal remains ‘Zero Plastics to Landfill’. However, only a binding EU landfill restriction by 2025, not just on recyclable, but on all other recoverable post-consumer waste, will provide the legal certainty required for the necessary investments in waste management infrastructure,” explained Karl-H. Foerster, Executive Director of PlasticsEurope.
Foerster said the experience of the seven Member States that have successfully implemented a landfill ban has shown that such a measure has a significant positive impact on recycling rates.
“Between 2006 and 2012, the amount of post-consumer plastic waste going to landfills was reduced by 26 percent and, as a result, plastics recycling rose by as much as 40 percent and energy recovery increased by 27 percent”, Foerster added.
Regarding future benefits of no longer having plastic waste ending up in landfills, he stated: “Our assessment shows that an additional amount of over 5 million tonnes of plastic waste could be recycled annually by 2025, an increase of almost 80 percent within 10 years. Furthermore, the remaining plastic waste that could not be sustainably recycled could contribute to the generation of an amount of energy equivalent to 23 percent of European gas imports from Russia.”
Such waste, he said, would therefore expand the diversity of Europe’s energy supply, thereby improving energy security and saving fossil fuels. "In total we assume that diverting plastic waste and other recoverable waste from landfill by 2025 would generate around 300,000 permanent industrial jobs related to sorting, recycling and energy recovery,” Foerster said.
With regards to future packaging recycling targets, PlasticsEurope says it advocates a lifecycle-driven approach, based on a cost-benefit analysis. “A recent study shows that with today’s technology there is an optimum level for plastics packaging recycling. This optimum lies between 35 percent and 50 percent depending on the specific situation in the country. Going beyond this level will result either in unjustifiably high costs for society or in no environmental benefits,” said Foerster.
He explained that based on this assessment an EU target of 45 percent by 2020 would be ambitious but realistic. “However, before setting targets for 2025 or beyond, the European Commission should assess the achievements made by 2020, adjusting the rates to a single calculation method and measurement point. Only such an approach will enable policy-makers to set realistic targets for the future” added Foerster.
He also called for more support for innovation in plastics recycling technologies in order to further increase its potential.