There is significant potential to double recycling across Europe for municipal, construction and electronic waste according to a European Environment Agency briefing.
More than 100 signatories from across the plastics supply chain have signed a declaration that commits to using 10 million tonnes of recycled plastic in European Union manufacturing by 2025.
The declaration falls under the Circular Plastics Alliance, which was launched by the European Commission in December 2018 to promote a sustainable recycled plastics market, via voluntary actions.
The declaration outlines how the alliance will reach the 10 million-tonne target, as set by the European Commission’s 2018 Plastics Strategy.
Strategy action points include improving the design of plastic products to make them more recyclable, and identifying investment gaps and untapped potential for plastic waste collection, sorting and recycling.
Additionally, signatories will work towards building a research and development agenda for circular plastics, and establish a transparent and reliable monitoring systems to track the flow of plastic waste.
Circular Plastics Alliance First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said he welcomed industry’s commitment to rethinking the way it produces and uses plastic.
“By efficiently recycling plastics, we will clean up the planet and fight climate change, by substituting fossil fuels with plastic waste in the production cycle,” Mr Timmermans said.
Circular Plastics Alliance Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who is responsible for internal market, industry and entrepreneurship, said there was potential to make European industry a world leader in recycled plastics.
“We should fully seize it to protect the environment, create new jobs in this sector and remain competitive,” Mr Timmermans said.
The declaration will remain open for more signatories to join over time.
European Bioplastics released a statement rejecting claims made in a University of Plymouth study titled Environmental deterioration of biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable, compostable and conventional plastic carrier bags.
The Australian Organics Recycling Association and the Australasian Bioplastics Association have endorsed the statements.
European Bioplastic Chairman Francois de Bie said the findings were misleading as most bags used for study were not biodegradable according to European Union definitions.
“According to European Bioplastic, the bag defined as biodegradable was labelled as such according to the standard ISO 14855, which is not a standard on biodegradation, but merely specifies a method for the determination of the ultimate aerobic biodegradability of plastics, based on organic compounds, under controlled conditions,” Mr Bie said.
“The study actually highlights the importance of correct labelling and certification.”
Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of a law banning single-use plastics commonly found on European beaches including drinking straws, cutlery and abandoned fishing gear.
The vote, which follows a Parliamentary endorsement in 2018, saw 560 members voting in favour of the law, 35 voting against and 28 abstaining.
Targeted products include plastic cotton buds, plates, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons which form up to 70 per cent of all marine litter items.
The law requires all European States to ban single-use and oxo-degradable plastic and polystyrene cups by 2021. Members will also have to achieve a 90 per cent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029.
Under the law plastic bottles will need to be manufactured with at least 25 per cent recycled content by 2025, with a 30 per cent target set for 2030.
The legislation will strengthen the application of the polluter pays principle by introducing extended responsibility for producers. For example a manufacturer of fishing gear, not the fisherman, would bear the cost of collecting nets lost at sea. Legislation also stipulates that labelling on the negative environmental impact of products should be mandatory.
Lead Member of Parliament Frédérique Ries said the legislation would reduce the EU’s environmental damage bill by €22 billion.
“Europe now has a legislative model to defend and promote at an international level given the global nature of the issue of marine pollution involving plastics. This is essential for the planet,” she said.
European Parliament has endorsed a proposition to ban 10 single-use plastic products which are commonly found on Europe’s beaches and seas, including drinking straws, cutlery and abandoned fishing gear.
The 10 products targeted also include plastic cotton buds, plates, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons and form up to 70 per cent of all marine litter items.
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Single-use drink containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached.
Under the rules proposed in May, member states will be obliged to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drink cups. This can be done through national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale or ensuring that there is a charge attached to single-use plastic products.
Certain products will require clear and standardised labelling that includes how to dispose of the waste, the negative environmental impact of the product and the presence of plastics in the product.
The European Commission has also teamed up with the United Nations Environment Programme to launch a coalition of aquariums to fight plastic pollution.
Aquariums around the world will organise permanent activities and be invited to change their procurement policies for their canteens and shops to eliminate all single-use plastic items.
The coalition aims to have at least 200 aquariums on board by 2019 to raise public awareness about plastic pollution.
EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said the European Commission has been working for 18 months to instigate and build this global coalition.
“Aquariums are a window to our ocean. With their collections and their educational programmes, they show us what we need to protect, and they inspire the ocean lovers of tomorrow,” he said.
“Millions of people visit aquariums around the world every year. This will mobilise them to rethink the way we use plastic.”
The European Union has taken steps to ban a number of single-use plastics from its member states. Waste Management Review looks at the implications of this and whether similar measures would be palatable in Australia.
Nestlé has pledged to increase the amount of recycled plastics the company uses in some of its packaging in the European Union by 2025.
The company aims to include 25 to 50 per cent recycled materials in PET layer in laminates, caps on glass jars and tines, trays for meat products and shrink films for display trays.
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It follows Nestlé’s pledge in April to make all of its packaging recyclable or re-useable by 2025.
The announcement is part of the voluntary pledging exercise on recycled content by the European Commission. Nestlé CEO for Zone Europe, Middle East and North Africa Marco Settembri delivered the pledge in person to the European Commission.
Mr Settembri said the company is taking the first concrete steps to achieve its packaging ambitions.
“Nestlé supports the Plastics Strategy of the European Union. We share the vision that no plastic packaging ends up in the environment. Recyclable packaging, good recycling infrastructure and more use of recycled material will help us close the loop,” he said.