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Call for harmonised EU standards for calculating recycled plastic content

More than 30 associations representing chemical and plastics industries across the EU are calling on policy makers to adopt harmonised rules for calculating recycled content and to base them on ‘mass balance’.

‘To achieve a circular economy for plastics, the use of recycled materials needs a boost,’ the signatories argue. ‘Alongside investments in climate neutral production and supply chains, greater support is needed to prevent waste generation, reuse plastics and the rapid scale-up of mechanical, organic and chemical recycling.’

While they concede that mechanical recycling should remain the preferred choice because of cost, environmental performance and recycling yields, the associations contend that investment in all technologies is needed to increase recycling. In particular, chemical recycling allows plastic waste unsuitable for mechanical recycling to be used to make new chemicals and plastics.

In all, 31 associations have signed a joint letter to the European Commission urging the adoption of an EU-harmonised rule for calculating chemically recycled content in the overall strategy towards EU recycled content targets. They include the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment, Chemical Recycling Europe, European Trade Association of PVC Window System Suppliers, Der Grüne Punkt, Petcore Europe, Plastics Europe and Vinyl Plus.

Production co-sited with existing large-scale industrial ‘virgin’ plastics production installations is seen as the most cost-effective use of recycled feedstock. Integration into large-scale production avoids the additional cost, energy, and carbon footprint of segregated production facilities.

It is argued that this feedstock does not exist in physically separate flows in the chemical manufacturing complex and it is not possible to physically track where recycled feedstock ends up.

The ‘mass balance’ approach is seen as providing a set of rules for how to allocate the recycled content to different products and to claim and market the content as ‘recycled’.

‘For this to succeed and be available at scale, EU harmonised rules for calculating chemically recycled content are urgently needed to intensify investments in these technologies,’ the signatories argue.

‘Mass balance is a transparent and auditable method to trace a defined material characteristic along the value-chain from material suppliers to consumers. A mass balance chain of custody is already used and accepted in other domains such as sustainable forestry products and fair-trade cocoa and chocolate.’

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