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Call for boost to EU plastics recycling infrastructure

Europe – A ‘large majority’ of industry stakeholders are calling for better implementation and enhanced legislation for plastic waste, EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik announced when sharing the findings of the Green Paper on Plastic Waste at a conference in Brussels on Monday this week.

The ‘overall message’ of the Green Paper is that the EU should stop funding landfilling and incineration and should start using public money to upgrade recycling infrastructures in Europe, Potočnik stated.

Also, nearly half of all respondents to the consultation process called for improvements to waste sorting and collection in all member states – preferably through separate doorstep collections combined with ‘pay-as-you-throw’ schemes.

Stakeholders are also demanding stricter and additional recycling targets – a 62% rate for plastics is thought to be feasible – as well as tougher export controls to ensure that European waste is not dumped or recycled in sub-standard facilities in third countries, the EU environment commissioner pointed out. ‘There is also strong support for promoting mono-materials and improved plastic design in order to increase recyclability,’ Potočnik added.

Durability of plastic products emerged as ‘one of the biggest concerns in the public consultation’, he continued. Most stakeholders believe that ‘planned obsolescence’ should be tackled; that new rules on eco-design should be a key element for improving recyclability; and that market-based instruments should be introduced to ‘address the waste burden posed by short-lived and single-use plastic products’.

In Potočnik’s opinion, the consultation shows EU industry players have started to move ‘in the right direction’. He argued: ‘There is a very high level of convergence between the answers we received and the more general policy objectives we are already pursuing on European waste policy.’

Furthermore, concrete preparatory work on diverting plastics from landfill and on increasing plastic recycling targets is ‘already going on’, he confirmed. ‘We should also adopt very soon a specific legislative proposal concerning lightweight plastic bags.’ The largest group of respondents were associations, 60% from industry and 19% NGOs; the second largest encompassed governments and public administrations, including 14 environment ministries.

Most reactions came from countries with ‘higher plastic recycling rates and better performance in waste management’, although various non-European countries like the USA, Turkey and the Philippines also provided input.

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