A target of 45% plastics recycling across Europe by 2025 is ambitious but achievable says PlasticsEurope. They are also calling for a landfill ban by 2025, which they believe is necessary to drive investment in waste management infrastructure and will also contribute to diversifying Europe’s energy supply.
PlasticsEurope is the Trade association representing plastics manufacturers across Europe. On the benefits of keeping plastic waste out of landfill Karl-H. Foerster, Executive Director, 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% 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% of European gas imports from Russia. Such waste 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."
With regards to future packaging recycling targets, PlasticsEurope advocates a life cycle driven approach, based on cost-benefit analysis. Mr Foerster said: "A recent study shows that with today’s technology there is an optimum level for plastics packaging recycling. This optimum lies between 35% and 50% 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. 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” Mr Foerster also called for more support for innovation in plastics recycling technologies in order to further increase its potential.
PlasticsEurope also set out the belief that the full life cycle of a product should be the basis of all decisions regarding measures and actions to trigger a sustainable circular economy. "Designing a product, for example, with the sole aim of improving its recyclability may not have a positive impact on the environment” Mr Foerster stated. "Modern food packaging, for example, often consists of a multi-layer film made out of different plastics making it hard to recycle it mechanically. However, if such packaging were not available, food producers would have to use far more material in order to provide the high level of protection required. Also, the shelf-life of their product would be much shorter and therefore food waste would increase.”
PlasticsEurope presented these recommendations last week as the EU considers its upcoming Circular Economy Packag, expected in the autumn.
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