Düsseldorf, Germany — The PlasticsEurope trade association is making good progress toward its 2030 Voluntary Commitment around plastics sustainability, but sees chemical recycling as the "ultimate solution" to plastics sustainability.
Association leaders spoke at an Oct. 17 news conference at K 2019.
The Brussels-based group has previously announced a commitment to have 60 percent of plastic packaging in Europe recycled or re-used by 2030.
At the news conference, it unveiled a study that showed that last year 42 percent of Europe's post-consumer plastic packaging waste that is collected was recycled.
"The voluntary commitment is working," said Javier Constante, PlasticsEurope president, and a senior executive with Dow Chemical Co. "We know we are on the right track."
As part of the overall commitment, the association set up several industry-specific voluntary commitments for polyolefins, styrenics and vinyl.
"I see a lot of determination from the industry to accelerate concrete solutions to fight marine litter, change business models and go beyond recycling targets," Constante said.
He said that various European Commission efforts have given the association a good idea of the direction it needs to go, and he told a large crowd of journalists and industry officials that the association believes chemical recycling technologies will be crucial to improving the sustainability of the industry.
"The real ultimate solution is feedstock recycling," he said.
Constante said it will take several years for chemical recycling technologies to become more commercialized, and he said that by 2025, much of the recycling could remain mechanical recycling, as it is now.
But he said that development of chemical recycling will escalate, and by 2030 will be a much larger portion.
As well, it made it compulsory for its PlasticsEurope member companies to follow Operation Clean Sweep, the industry's voluntary program aimed at reducing pellet leakage from factories into the environment.
The association, which represents plastics material suppliers, said it is the first plastics trade group in the world to make OCS compulsory for its member.
Constante, however, noted that the association would like more commitments from other parts of the plastics value chain, including converters, around OCS.
And while it's not part of the voluntary commitment, Rüdiger Baunemann, director general of PlasticsEurope Deutschland e.V., said the industry should work toward not supporting the export of plastic waste to countries that do not recycle it responsibly.
The association also released economic data that said that European plastics production dropped from 64.4 million metric tons in 2017 to 61.8 million tonnes in 2018.