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EPR key to higher PET recycling

More effective producer responsibility schemes can boost plastic recycling across the European Union to reach the recovery levels metals and glass, the sector has been told.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) was frequently referenced at an event at the European Parliament in Brussels concerning the PET industry and its role in the circular economy.

PETCORE, which represents the entire value chain for the recovery of PET products such as drinks bottles and food containers, had invited seven speakers, including two MEPs and two Commission experts. Greek MEP Maria Spyraki hosted the event, the first of two planned by PETCORE. She spoke about the challenges of plastics in general and noted that some member states’ EPR schemes worked well while others fared badly. 

Sarah Nelen, head of waste management and secondary materials at the Commission’s DG Environment, said that a review of how recycling was measured was being undertaken as part of efforts to improve the recycling of all polymers, not just PET. She said EPR was an important tool to boost packaging recycling and referenced the Belgian version as a good model. She pointed out that those member states with high recycling rates collected materials separately and had effective EPR schemes. 

Nelen also said the Commission was looking at the regulations around putting packaging on the market because currently they were not sufficiently incentivising more sustainable designs to enable recycling. She also reminded delegates that the waste hierarchy required a focus on waste reduction ahead of material recovery.

PETCORE is concerned that proposals under the proposed Single Use Plastic directive will cut production of PET food trays. Nelen offered some reassurance by saying the intention was to tackle on-the-go food packaging that ends up as litter, rather than food trays in supermarkets and other outlets. As a result, she said, the Commission was reviewing the specification of such products under the directive.

A follow-up event is scheduled for 20 March in Brussels when PETCORE is focussing on how smarter collections and sorting will boost the quantity and, crucially, the quality of recycled materials such as PET. 

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