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CLIMATE ACTION PROGRAMME

17 January 2018

The European Union releases decisive strategy against plastic waste

After months of preparations, the European Union has adopted its first comprehensive strategy on plastics, as part of its transition towards a more circular economy.

According to the EU’s recent figures, more than 7 tonnes of plastics disappear into the oceans every second. Plastic packaging accounts for about 60 percent of all plastic waste generated in Europe, whilst 95 percent of plastic packaging’s value- which is estimated at €72 billion, is lost every year.

Out of the 25 million tonnes of plastic waste generated by European citizens every year, less than 30 percent is recycled or re-used in any form.

Frans Timmermans, first Vice President of the European Commission, explained that “If we want to do something about this, simply banning plastics won’t work. We have to make sure that we create an economy where it is profitable to recycle and reuse plastic”.

“We need plastics, but we need better plastics”, he added.

To this end, the strategy includes measures such as a review of EU’s packaging legislation, new rules to increase the demand for plastic content, and the development of advanced recycling facilities.

Sorting and recycling facilities will need to increase fourfold in relation to 2015 levels, leading to the creation of at least 200,000 new jobs across Europe.

The Commission targets all plastic packaging in the EU market to be reusable or recyclable by 2030. In addition, a recycling rate of at least 50 percent will need to be achieved by the same year.

Besides the focus on re-use and recycle, the new strategy also aims at curbing plastic waste, targeting single-use plastics, fishing gears, microplastics and oxo-degradable plastics- often mislabelled as biodegradable and compostable plastics.

To boost the recycling industry, the EU will provide €100 million in financing the development of smarter plastic materials and will lead campaigns to raise awareness among consumers and stimulate a change in habits.

Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission, said: "With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it. This will help to reduce plastic litter on land, air, and sea while also bringing new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and high-quality jobs”.

“This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials. Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is a true win-win”, he added.

You can read the full “European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy” here

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