The ideal and reality of the EU plastic war



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The ideal and reality of the EU plastic war

Europe produces about 26 million tons of plastic a year, of which only about 30% of plastics are recycled, and most of the rest are burned or dumped into landfills...

Europe produces about 26 million tons of plastic a year, of which only about 30% of plastics are recycled, and most of the rest are burned or dumped into landfills.


The EU “Plastic Strategy” was launched in January 2018 as part of the transition to a circular economy with the goal of ensuring that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be reusable or recyclable by 2030, allowing disposable plastics to be consumed. Reduced, plastic particles are subject to more restrictions.


The EU's challenge to plastics pollution also includes new requirements for designing recyclable products, as well as setting quality standards for plastic waste within the EU to make it easier to return to the production chain and encourage producers to use recycled materials as much as possible. Brussels also spends 100 million euros a year on plastic recycling and cleaning research.


In order to achieve a recycling plastics economy, the EU believes that more recycled plastics must be introduced. As part of the plastics strategy, the European Commission had previously requested that the plastics industry in the EU must voluntarily commit to increase the recycled materials in its products by September 30 this year, hoping to increase the supply of 10 million by 2025 through this non-binding action. Tons of recycled plastic. The results are scheduled to be announced in the first quarter of next year.


However, a recent preliminary assessment has made the European Commission somewhat embarrassed to find that if these companies fully realize their commitments, companies that can use recycled plastics add up to a total of only 5 million tons.


Now the EU's work has become how to try to narrow the gap between the supply and demand market and increase the demand for recycled plastics.


In late October, the European Parliament passed an overwhelming majority of resolutions to completely ban the “most common marine top ten plastic products” in the EU, including plastic straws, cotton swabs, coffee stir bars, tableware and other disposable plastic products that can be replaced by other materials. It will be banned in 2021 and 90% of plastic bottles will be recycled by 2025.


The resolution was passed with a total of 571 votes, 53 votes against and 34 abstentions. After the approval of the European Commission and all member states, the resolution is expected to enter into force as a law in 2021.


Frederique Ries, a member of the European Parliament from Belgium, said that although Europe is only responsible for a small part of marine plastic waste, it should play a key role in developing a response plan.


For other disposable plastic products that do not have an ideal replacement, the European Parliament also requires a 25% reduction in usage by 2025; a 50% reduction in the amount of cigarette paper containing plastic. In addition, manufacturers also need to take more responsibility in the production of plastic products and packaging.


Industry associations of European plastics producers are very dissatisfied with this, publicly criticizing that the EU's ban on disposable plastic products may not only adversely affect health and hygiene, but also hinder people from investing in new recycling methods. The industry believes that legislation should encourage collection and recycling, rather than setting targets for reducing usage.


“The industry is ready to discuss this issue with regulators in order to increase waste recycling, improve education, maintain the EU internal market and avoid damage to many SMEs,” said Alexandre Dangis, Managing Director of the European Plastics Association. “This is likely to result in a Unrealistic additional EU legislation has many different interpretations at the national level, but there is no coherent approach to follow."


PET Sheet Europe, a member of the European Plastics Industry Association, which represents PET sheet producers, said that in the past few years, the recycling of PET sheet producers has steadily increased, providing an effective way to reuse plastics. Members of the organization use an average of 45% recycled ingredients and promise to increase to 70% renewable ingredients by 2025.


The organization urged European policymakers to develop separate recycling policies for PET sheets and implement specific targets instead of adopting a reduction in consumption, which would undermine 70% of industry commitments and other circular economy initiatives.


The European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) is highly interested in supporting this policy. FEAD said the industry needs a new investment of 10 billion euros to innovate and expand the capacity of individual collection, sorting and recycling of all plastics at the EU level.


FEAD's members are distributed in 19 EU member states as well as Norway and Serbia, representing 3,000 companies, accounting for approximately 60% of the household waste market and 75% of industrial and commercial waste.


Spencer Dale, BP's chief economist, believes that disposable plastics account for only about 15% of all non-combustible petroleum products, but the global ban on disposable plastic products will weaken the next two decades. Oil demand is growing. It is expected that by 2040, such measures introduced around the world may result in the disappearance of 2 million barrels of oil per day.