The first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics, adopted today, is a part of the transition towards a more circular economy – launching an effective war on plastic waste, we hope. 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. The EU aims to protect the environment from plastic pollution while fostering growth and innovation.
There is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU and by taking the lead in this transition, the EU will create new investment opportunities and jobs.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said: “If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies. The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more. This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together.”
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “We are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it. Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is true win-win.”
Why urgent action is needed
Every year, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30% is collected for recycling. Across the world, plastics make up 85% of beach litter. And plastics are even reaching citizens’ lungs and dinner tables, with microplastics in air, water and food having an unknown impact on their health. Building on the Commission’s past work, the new EU-wide strategy on plastics will tackle the issue head on.
Too often the way plastics are currently produced, used and discarded fail to capture the economic benefits of a more circular approach. It harms the environment. The goal is to protect the environment and 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.
With the plastic strategy, the Commission has adopted a Monitoring Framework, composed of a set of ten key indicators which cover each phase of the cycle, which will measure progress towards the transition to a circular economy at EU and national level.
Under the new strategy, the European Union will:
- Make recycling profitable for business
- Curb plastic waste
- Stop littering at sea
- Drive investment and innovation
- Spur change across the world
The new Directive on port reception facilities proposed today will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. Subject to Better Regulation requirements, the Commission will present the proposal on single-use plastics later in 2018.
You have until 12 February 2018 to contribute to the ongoing public consultation.
The Plastics Strategy will also make a tangible contribution to reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement objectives on climate change.
The EU has already taken significant steps by setting requirements for Member States to adopt measures to cut the consumption of plastic bags and to monitor and reduce marine litter.
What others say
“The European Commission is showing willingness to tackle the plastic pollution crisis”, said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, coordinator of Rethink Plastic, “but it is now essential to bring forward ambitious legislation to drastically reduce the consumption of both single-use plastic items and packaging within this Commission’s term”.
On the other hand, while restrictions on polluting oxo-plastics  are mentioned, the Strategy includes no detail on how this would be done. “There is no place for oxo-plastics in a true circular economy. If the Commission is to be serious about halting the use of these damaging materials, a ban is urgently needed”, said Lévi Alvarès.
Rethink Plastic welcomes measures to prevent the loss of pre-production plastic pellets, the second largest source of microplastic pollution, and notably the potential development of a certification scheme along the plastics supply chain to prevent pellet loss. They also welcome the development of new measures to reduce the loss of fishing gear at sea, including possible recycling targets or deposit schemes to disincentivise dumping.
At Ecophiles, we talk about this issue a lot and we hope these measures create an example for other countries to follow.