Europe steps up war on plastic waste

A first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics has been adopted by the European Commission (EC). Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the E.U. market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the use of microplastics will be restricted.

The EC said the E.U. Plastics Strategy is intended to transform the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled. The goal is to protect the environment and lay foundations for “a new plastic economy,” where the design and production fully respect reuse, repair, and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed. 

As well as making recycling more profitable for business, the strategy will seek to curb plastic waste, including single-use plastics, fishing gear, and microplastics in products; stop littering at sea; drive investment and innovation; and spur change through global solutions and international standards. 

The strategy includes a monitoring framework, comprising 10 key indicators that cover each phase of the cycle and which will measure progress at E.U. and national levels.

"If we don't change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050,” said Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, who is responsible for sustainable development. “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. 

According to the E.C., Europeans generate 25 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste every year, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling. It further estimates that across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter.

“With the E.U. Plastics Strategy, we are also driving a new and more circular business model. We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive,” Timmermans said.


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