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EU launches strategy to save the planet from plastic waste

The European Commission adopted this week a strategy to protect the environment from plastic pollution as part of the transition to a circular economy. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans warned on Tuesday, that “If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more.”

According to the Commission, Europeans generate every year 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30% is collected for recycling. Most plastic in Europe is landfilled or incinerated, rather than recycled. Across the world, plastics make up 85% of beach litter.

Plastics are even reaching citizens’ lungs and dinner tables, with microplastics in air, water and food having an unknown impact on their health.

According to estimates, only 5% of the value of plastic packaging material retains in the economy, the rest is lost after a very short first-use. The annual bill accounts for between €70 and €105 billion. Furthermore, unrecycled plastic takes hundreds of years to break down.

The plastic strategy is expected to transform the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. 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.

The strategy includes a long list of EU measures and measures recommended to national authorities and industry. The Commission will present the proposal on single-use plastics later in 2018. Stakeholders have until 12 February 2018 to contribute to the ongoing public consultation.

The Commission will also launch the work on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and prepare guidelines on separate collection and sorting of waste to be issued in 2019.

Examples of measures to reduce plastic waste

Make recycling profitable for business: New rules on packaging will be developed to improve the recyclability of plastics used on the market and increase the demand for recycled plastic content.

Curb plastic waste: After the reduction of plastic bag use, the new plans will turn to other single-use plastics and fishing gear. The Commission will also take measures to restrict the use of microplastics in products, and fix labels for biodegradable and compostable plastics.

According to a new Eurobarometer Survey 72% of European citizens said they cut down on their use of single use plastic bags, 38% of them in the last year.

Stop littering at sea: New rules on port reception facilities will tackle sea-based marine litter, with measures to ensure that waste generated on ships or gathered at sea is not left behind but returned to land and adequately managed there.


M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

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