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EU plastics strategy makes strong business case for recycling

The European Commission has unveiled plans to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030, as part of a series of commitments that go beyond measures launched by the prime minister earlier this week.

A strategy adopted by the Commission put forward a business case for making plastics easier to recycle and increasing the demand for recycled plastic content, thereby creating 200,000 jobs in sorting and recycling industries by 2030. 

The strategy also outlined legislative plans to restrict single-use plastics and microplastics.

The Defra 25-year environment plan contains few firm commitments beyond a consultation on tax or charges to reduce single-use plastics, reform of the packaging recovery note system and extension of the 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers.

Proposals to incentivise UK producers to “design better products” will be set out in the hotly anticipated resources and waste strategy, which will be published this year.

The European strategy is intended to dovetail with the circular economy package, which will implement a specific target for plastic packaging recycling of 50% by 2025, rising to 55% by 2030.

An additional €100m (£89m) funding from Horizon 2020 will be used to help develop “smarter and more recyclable plastics materials, making recycling processes more efficient, and tracing and removing hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics”.

Commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans said: “We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food and even our bodies. The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more.

“This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together. With the EU Plastics Strategy we are also driving a new and more circular business model.”

Vice-president Jyrki Katainen added: “With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy and driving investment towards it.

“This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials. Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is true win-win.”

The UK has already banned plastic microbeads and is ahead of most of Europe in cutting the use of single-use plastic bags.

Allegations that the 5p bag charge was prompted by an EU directive has been labelled “fake news” by resources minister Therese Coffey. 

Industry makes voluntary commitment

As part of the Commission’s strategy, Plastics Recyclers Europe, Petcore Europe, the European Carpet and Rug Association, the Polyolefin Circularity Platform, European Plastics Converters and VinylPlus have adopted a framework of voluntary commitments to continue and expand existing plastics recycling activities and create ’additional circularity platforms’ inspired by the good example set by VinylPlus and Petcore Europe.

The voluntary commitment is intended to lead to a 50% recycling target for all plastics waste by 2040.


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