We are in a period of change affecting numerous sectors, but the plastics sector in particular is the focus of attention of public authorities and society in general. It has even been proposed that we should consider living without plastic. But is that really possible? And would living without plastic really improve the environment, our health and our quality of life?
The solution lies in focusing our efforts on promoting the circular economy and fighting on all fronts to meet the European target of incorporating 10 million tonnes of recycled plastic into new products by 2025. The fight must be carried out in cooperation with the entire value chain and public authorities, through legislation that should be proportionate and harmonised, whilst providing security to the sector as well as incentives to innovate and increase the demand for recycled plastic. And let us not forget that this in itself is not enough. We must also foster awareness of responsible consumption and provide education to discourage littering.
The value of plastic lies in its properties, its versatility, light weight, safety and durability, to mention but a few of the numerous advantages that enable the material to be used for an infinite number of purposes. Equally important is the potential it offers to be converted into new resources at the end of its service life, thereby preventing it from being landfilled.
This may be through the manufacture of new products, thanks to mechanical recycling, reconversion into monomers or polymers through chemical recycling, or conversion into energy, as a final option.
Challenges and keys to achieving a circular economy for plastics
Following the publication of the new European Commission Circular Economy Package in 2015, plastics began to be defined as one of the five priority areas. The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, published in 2018, underlines the need to achieve high-quality recycled plastic that can be reused costeffectively in the production process.
Many challenges and targets have been set for plastics in the coming years. Einstein said that “we can’t expect things to change if we continue doing the same things. It is in crisis that inventions, discoveries and large strategies are born”. Three of the main targets set out in the European Strategy are as follows: by 2025, at least 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics should find their way into products and packaging; by 2030, all plastics packaging placed on the EU market must be either reusable or be recyclable in a cost-effective manner; and no plastic waste must be abandoned in nature.
Isabel Goyena, Director at Cicloplast
Published in: Nº64 FuturENVIRO October 2019