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EU seeks views on better plastic recycling

A European Commission green paper on plastic says half of all plastic generated in Europe, which can include hazardous components, goes to landfill, and that current EU legislation is not enough to deal with the particular challenges of plastic waste.

The consultation is seeking views on the possible use of landfill bans, taxes and “pay as you throw” schemes, as well as the effectives of recycling targets, and how existing legislation could be adapted to promote re-use, recycling and recovery of plastic.

The paper also looks at how to make design more recycling friendly and whether there is a need to promote biodegradable plastics.

Questions in the consultation include:

  • Can plastic be appropriately dealt with in the existing legislative framework for waste management or does the existing legislation need to be adapted?
  • What measures would be appropriate and effective to promote plastic re-use and recovery over landfilling? Would a landfill ban for plastic be a proportionate solution or would an increase of landfill taxes and the introduction of diversion targets be sufficient?
  • Should separate door step collection of all plastic waste combined with pay-as-you-throw schemes for residual waste be promoted in Europe, or even be made mandatory?
  • Is it necessary to introduce measures to avoid substandard recycling or dumping of recyclable plastic waste exported to third countries?

The commission said that plastic’s durability made disposal problematic. Plastic can last for hundreds of years and makes up a large proportion of litter in oceans.

According to the paper, a better framework to support eco-design and environmental innovation, with waste prevention and recycling factored in to the design of plastic products, is essential because recycling plastic will become an alternative to exploiting virgin resources as world population grows.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said that although managing plastic waste was a major challenge, it was also a big opportunity for resource efficiency.

“In a circular economy where high recycling rates offer solutions to material scarcity, I believe plastic has a future,” he said. “I invite all stakeholders to participate in this process of reflection on how to make plastic part of the solution rather than the problem.”

The consultation will run until the beginning of June, with results feeding into policy in 2014 as part of a broader waste policy review, which will especially look at the existing targets for waste.

Actor Jeremy Irons, whose new film Trashed examines waste, lent his backing to the EC campaign. He spoke to Channel 4 News:

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