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EU urged to invest in plastics recycling infrastructure

The EU should not fund landfilling and incineration but instead use public money to upgrade plastics recycling infrastructure in Europe, according to respondents to a European Commission (EC) consultation.

Currently half of plastic arisings in the EU go to landfill and the EC’s green paper on plastic waste sought views on how to improve legislation to prevent the use of landfill. There is also public concern on the amount of plastic litter in the marine environment.

The consultation ran from March to June this year and most replies were from industry associations, NGOs and governments, and other public administrations.

Janez Potocnik, the EC’s environment commissioner, told a conference on plastic’s role in the circular economy that, as well as concern about public money spent on landfill, other views included:

  • improvements in waste sorting and separate kerbside collections, combined with ‘pay as you throw’ initiatives (nearly half of respondents)
  • better implementation and improved legislation, including a landfill ban for plastic, stricter and additional recycling targets, and stricter export controls (the “large majority”)
  • strong support for improved plastics design for recyclability

The durability of plastic products was also seen as an issue, said Potocnik. Most respondents said ‘planned obsolescence’ should be tackled; new eco-design regulations would drive up recyclability, and market-based instruments should be used to address single-use or short lived plastic products.

The results of the consultation will feed into policy in 2014 as part of a broader review of waste policy targets, including an assessment of packaging waste directives. “We should also adopt very soon a specific legislative proposal concerning lightweight plastic bags,” said Potocnik.

  • The British Plastics Federation’s Replast conference addressing how to increase the production of recycled plastics in UK manufacturing is on 6 November.

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