The European Union has announced a strategy to make all plastic packaging in the EU recyclable by 2030 and to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics.
Every year, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30% is collected for recycling. Across the world, plastics make up 85% of beach litter. The new plan is to tackle the issue head on.
It aims to protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the future of Europe.
The EU said there is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled and by taking the lead in this transition, it hopes to create new investment opportunities and jobs.
The goal is to protect the environment whilst at the same time lay foundations to a new plastic economy, where the design and production fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed.
European Commission (EC) first vice-president Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, believes a unified approach is needed across the continent.
“If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050,” he 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 ptrategy 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.”
Jyrki Katainen, EC vice president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it.
Under the strategy, the EU will place new rules on port reception facilities to tackle sea-based marine litter
“This will help to reduce plastic litter in land, air and sea while also bringing new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and high-quality jobs. 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.”
Under the strategy, the EU will place new rules on port reception facilities to tackle sea-based marine litter, to ensure that generated on ships or gathered at sea is not left behind but returned to land and adequately managed there.
It will also invest an additional €100 million to finance the development of smarter and more recyclable plastics materials, making recycling processes more efficient, and tracing and removing hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics.
It hopes to spur changes across the world and collaborate with global partners to formulate international solutions and standards.
Sections of the food and drink industry have shown their support for the initiative, with FoodDrinkEurope acknowledging the great environmental environmental challenge that is linked to the current plastics model.
“With this in mind, FoodDrinkEurope members are integrating into their operations the continuous improvement of the environmental performance and resource efficiency of food and drink products along their life cycle, including any associated packaging materials,” it said in a statement.
“Europe’s food and drink sector remains committed to supporting the European Commission towards a circular economy model, stepping up efforts to improve plastics use, as well as maximising the use of available resources. FoodDrinkEurope’s members are striving to improve waste management practices at every stage along the food supply chain, always prioritising and ensuring food safety.”
Meanwhile, Tetra Pak said that it will work with industry partners to ensure that by 2030 recycling solutions are in place for all components of beverage cartons so they can be fully recycled across Europe.
CEO Dennis Jönsson said: “Although around 75% of our packaging is made from paperboard, we also use plastics as a protective layer and to produce the package openings.
“The EU’s plastics strategy is an important step towards a low-carbon circular economy based on recycling, renewables and responsible sourcing, and we are ready to make our contribution as a leading food processing and packaging provider.”
The announcement comes as efforts are ramped up globally to limit the impact of plastic pollution. Yesterday British supermarket Iceland announced plans to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own-brand products by the end of 2023.
Last year, 150 companies and global organisations – including Nestlé, Danone and Unilever – endorsed a total ban on oxo-degradable plastics.
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