“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.”
The European Commission has urged the bloc’s plastics industry to do more to boost the market for recycled plastics. While it welcomed the voluntary pledges made by industry so far, the EU executive believes the commitments fall short.
More than 60 pledges were made under the EU’s 'Plastics Strategy' launched at the start of the year. The EU’s preliminary assessment found at least 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics could be supplied by 2025 if the pledges are fully delivered.
However, on the demand side, which covers retailers using recycled material, there have been pledges to use only five million tonnes of recycled plastic.
The main pledges came from industry associations, plastic recyclers, and brand owners mainly for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging.
The Commission will review the pledges before deciding on future action to beef up demand, such as regulation or incentives.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans (@TimmermansEU) 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.
He added: “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 (@jyrkikatainen), responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, explained: "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."
In a statement to Bio-Based World News, trade body PlasticsEurope said: "In our view, the inclusion of recyclates should ultimately be a choice of specifiers and producers of finished articles as they are in the best position to evaluate whether such an operation is technically possible, economically viable and environmentally beneficial.
"The uptake of recycled material is possible when recyclates are able to meet the technical requirements of the applications where they are intended to be used, following the specification of the manufacturers of the final articles (e.g. transparency of a film, strength and rigidity, shrinkage and warpage, melt viscosity etc.).
"In addition, products containing recyclates, like all products, must comply too with the applicable product legal requirements (e.g. Food Contact Regulations, Toys Regulations, RoHS Directive etc.)."
The EU recycles only a quarter of the 25-26 million tonnes of plastics waste it produces per year.
The EU executive wants 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics to be used in new products sold in the bloc by 2025 - quadrupling demand. The plastics plan also set targets for all plastic packaging on the EU market to be recyclable by 2030 and single-use plastics to be reduced.
Last month, EU lawmakers voted to ban 10 single-use plastic products with readily available alternatives by 2021. This is seen as a positive for the bio-based industry as retailers will look to alternative plastic materials.