Restricting landfilling must be the priority

Recommendations for a life cycle driven Circular Economy

PlasticsEurope presents its recommendations for the EU’s upcoming Circular Economy Package and calls for a landfill ban on recyclable and other recoverable post-consumer waste by 2025 as the priority to improve resource efficiency in Europe.  

"Our goal remains ‘Zero Plastics to Landfill’. However, only a binding EU landfill restriction by 2025, not just on recyclable, but on all other recoverable post-consumer waste, will provide the legal certainty required for the necessary investments in waste management infrastructure”, highlighted Karl-H. Foerster, Executive Director of PlasticsEurope. The experience of the seven Member States which have successfully implemented a landfill ban has shown that such a measure has a significant positive impact on recycling rates, he added. "Between 2006 and 2012, the amount of post-consumer plastic waste going to landfills was reduced by 26% and, as a result, plastics recycling rose by as much as 40% and energy recovery increased by 27%”, expressed Mr Foerster.  

Regarding future benefits of no longer having plastic waste ending up in landfills, he stated: "Our assessment shows that an additional amount of over 5 million tonnes of plastic waste could be recycled annually by 2025, an increase of almost 80% within 10 years. Furthermore, the remaining plastic waste that could not be sustainably recycled could contribute to the generation of an amount of energy equivalent to 23% of European gas imports from Russia.” Such waste would therefore expand the diversity of Europe’s energy supply, thereby improving energy security and saving fossil fuels. "In total we assume that diverting plastic waste and other recoverable waste from landfill by 2025 would generate around 300,000 permanent industrial jobs related to sorting, recycling and energy recovery", Mr Foerster summarised.  

With regards to future packaging recycling targets, PlasticsEurope advocates for a life cycle driven approach, based on a cost-benefit analysis. "A recent study shows that with today’s technology there is an optimum level for plastics packaging recycling. This optimum lies between 35% and 50% depending on the specific situation in the country. Going beyond this level will result either in unjustifiably high costs for society or in no environmental benefits”, stated Mr Foerster. He explained that based on this assessment an EU target of 45% by 2020 would be ambitious but realistic. "However, before setting targets for 2025 or beyond, the European Commission should assess the achievements made by 2020, adjusting the rates to a single calculation method and measurement point. Only such an approach will enable policy-makers to set realistic targets for the future” added Mr Foerster. He also called for more support for innovation in plastics recycling technologies in order to further increase its potential.  

While waste is an important aspect which needs to be dealt with within the framework of the circular economy, PlasticsEurope continues to believe that the full life cycle of a product should be the basis of all decisions regarding measures and actions to trigger a truly sustainable circular economy. "Designing a product for example with the sole aim of improving its recyclability may not have a positive impact on the environment” Mr Foerster stated. "Modern food packaging, for example, often consists of a multi-layer film made out of different plastics making it hard to recycle it mechanically. However, if such packaging were not available, food producers would have to use far more material in order to provide the high level of protection required. Also, the shelf-life of their product would be much shorter and therefore food waste would increase.”  

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Did you know ?
  • This pen with a water bottle shape is called B2P (From bottle to pen) and is made of 89% of plastic coming from recycled bottles of water.
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