Member of European Parliament Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy has urged the European Commission to take plastics recycling seriously in its upcoming plastics strategy later this year.
The MEP made his comments at his opening remarks at the Plastics Recycling Show Europe in Amsterdam on 29 March.
“Plastics are everywhere and we can't imagine a world without them. Also economically, they are huge. In Europe, almost 1.5m people have jobs related to plastics and it creates and astronomical turnover of €350bn in Europe,” said Gerbrandy.
But unfortunately, he added, plastics are in some places where we don't want them to be including trees, rivers, oceans and stomachs of many wild animals.
“Millions of tonnes of plastics end up in oceans each year, creating problems for the environment. For that reason, bans for plastic bags are being introduced all over the world, from Indonesia, to Colombia to Morocco. And recently, the city of Delhi with 19m population – which is bigger than the entire Netherlands – has introduced a total ban on the use of disposable plastic,” the politician pointed out.
But littering, he said, is only one of the problems with plastics.
“Later this year, the European Commission will publish a strategy on plastics and it'll be based on three fundamental problems with plastics,” he said
The problems, according to the MEP, is that plastics are mostly made of fossil fuel; there is low rate of recycling and leakage into the environment, including microplastics.
These, he said, are the “fundamental problems that the European Commission will discuss for its plastics strategy.”
Referring to the New Plastics Economy report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) and the World Economic Forum, published in 2016, the MEP said some 86% of plastics worldwide are not collected for recycling.
This means, he added, a value of $80-$120bn dollars is lost to the economy annually.
“In combination with the problems I just mentioned, it is clear that something has to be done,” said Gerbrandy.
Citing the three proposals put forward by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for redesigning, reusing and recycling plastics packaging, he said the decision makers at the European Commission should use the findings of the EMF for the plastics strategy later this year.
“They only need to be aware of the huge opportunities the new approach and the high costs of ‘business as usual',” he added.
“I'm certain that a few people within the commission are aware [of the benefits of recycling]… The awareness is present but as I said it is [not] sufficiently present. Somehow they are afraid that the European economy is not ready for such a transition yet. But they are totally underestimating the support for such measures. Take plastic bags, we have bans on plastic bags all around Europe. And policy-makers fear that people would be strongly against it. But not only are these policies extremely effective, but public support is huge,” he concluded.
Plastics Recycling Show Europe is held in Amsterdam 29-30 March. The event is organised by Crain Communications, publisher of Plastics News Europe.
In a plenary session of the European Parliament on 14 March, MEPs voted for legislation for the European Union to aim for a recycling rate target of 70% by 2030. For packaging materials, including paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood, MEPs proposed an 80% target for 2030, with interim 2025 targets for each material.
MEPs also supported “waste package” plans for the EU to limit the share of landfilling to 5% and to deliver a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030. You can read more about the European Parliament vote here.