Market for Recycled Plastics Requires Further Action

Commission: Voluntary Pledges Welcome but More Needed to Boost Recycled Plastics

While voluntary pledges received by the industry show significant commitments, more will be needed to achieve the EU’S objective of a well-functioning market of recycled plastics, according to the Commission.

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While voluntary pledges received by the industry show significant commitments, more will be needed to achieve the EU’S objective of a well-functioning market of recycled plastics, according to the Commission.

Following an EU-wide pledging campaign as part of the European Plastics Strategy, the European Commission has given a preliminary assessment which shows that EU industry is significantly committed to recycling plastics - at least 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics could be supplied by 2025 if the pledges are fully delivered. However, on the demand side, only 5 million tonnes are expected so far, demonstrating that more will be needed to achieve the objective of a well-functioning EU market of recycled plastics.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said: "To get to a circular plastics economy, it is essential that more recycled plastics find their way into new products. While we are very grateful for the variety of contributions we received from different industry representatives, more needs to be done.

“We will now analyse which should be the next steps to further boost the uptake of recycled plastics and close the gap between supply and demand. This is not only necessary for safeguarding our natural environment but also good for our economy as Europe leads the way."

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: "The pledging exercise clearly shows that big part of the European industry is committed to use plastics in a more sustainable manner. Rethinking plastics is seen as potentially beneficial by all participants of the value chain, from waste collectors and recyclers to producers and converters to brand-owners.

‘To be able to reap benefits in full, we need to develop a well-functioning market for recycled plastics. To this end we invite all relevant stakeholders to continue our joint work."

By the end of October the Commission received over 60 pledges and is now reviewing them in more detail to analyse their impact per plastic types on supply and demand aspects. The main pledges received came from plastics recyclers, industry associations for Expanded Polystyrene and brand owners mainly for PET packaging.

While the official pledging exercise announced in the Plastics Strategy is now closed, we are well aware that more companies are preparing their commitments – which we strongly encourage.

Preliminary analysis indicates that pledges from recyclers would give enough recycled plastics to reach the EU target by 2025. However, as the demand for recycled plastics may increase quickly if good quality material becomes available in stable quantities and at competitive prices, based on the current pledges the demand for recycled plastics needs developing. Further actions should therefore be envisaged to support an increased demand for recycled plastics.

Next steps
The Commission will now analyse the pledges in more detail and publish the results of this detailed assessment in the first quarter of 2019. This analysis will help identify gaps between supply (recyclers) and demand (producers, converters, manufacturers) for the different plastic types, and guide future actions, including the ongoing assessment of regulatory or economic incentives in targeted sectors such as the automotive, construction and packaging sectors that were announced in the Plastics Strategy.

The Commission will continue to strongly encourage initiatives that contribute to boosting the market of recycled plastics in the EU.

The Commission added that it will cooperate with stakeholders and facilitate close stakeholder collaboration across the supply chain to achieve this objective. A first stakeholder meeting will be organised early 2019.

Background
In January 2018 the European Commission adopted the first-ever Europe-wide Plastics Strategy as part of the transition towards a more circular economy. It will protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the Future of Europe.

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. As part of this strategy on plastics the Commission launched the voluntary pledges campaign.

To support further its Strategy, in May 2018 the European Commission proposed new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

Together these constitute 70% of all marine litter items. The new rules suggest that where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market.

For products without straight-forward alternatives, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers. The European Parliament voted favourably on the Commission's proposal in October this year.

The Commission itself is pursuing internal initiatives contributing to the implementation of the Plastics Strategy. The European Commission has stopped using single-use plastic cups and replaced them by 100% recyclable paper cups in its premises in Brussels.

Single-use plastic crockery and cutlery has also been eliminated in the Commission’s catering premises and it is also conducting awareness-raising campaigns for staff to promote reusable items ("Use your mug"; "Refill your water bottle"), to sort waste properly and to encourage recycling.

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