The European Commission’s Roadmap for the EU Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy has been criticised for failing to address waste reduction.
Published on 26 January, the three-page briefing outlines three areas of concern blocking more sustainable use of the material:
- High dependence on virgin fossil feedstock
- Low rate of recycling and reuse of plastics
- Leakage of plastics into the environment
It says more than 90% of plastics on the continent are produced from virgin polymers and that innovative technologies should be developed to create a higher quality recycled product.
Only 30% of the material is currently recycled in the EU, and the Commission says this is partly because the economic incentives to use recycled plastic materials in products are weak.
“There is no constant high flow of high-quality recyclates and no clear horizontal approach on how to deal with legacy substances in recyclates, that carefully weights pros and cons of allowing recycling of certain materials versus elimination of the chemicals of concern,” the roadmap says.
It adds that more plastic products need to be recyclable, instead of being “designed to be thrown away”.
The roadmap says more work on the definitions of biodegradable and compostable plastics is needed to aid their use as a solution to the material’s pollution of the environment.
In response, campaign group the Break Free From Plastic Movement said the roadmap should have focused more on plastic waste prevention.
European co-ordinator Delphine Lévi Alvarès said: “It is crucial that we reframe the debate around real solutions, take action to reduce throwaway plastics dramatically and acknowledge producer responsibility for a product’s end of life in the design process, rather than focusing on unsustainable replacement and recycling.”
Trade body European Bioplastics said the strategy was needed and welcomed the priority the Commission gave to decarbonising the industry.
But it urged more work on biodegradable plastics. ”This falls short of accounting for the full circular potential these materials offer,” is said in a statement.
A consultation on the roadmap is expected to be launched soon at http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/consultations/index_en.htm