The circular economy represents an alternative, more sustainable model to the traditional linear economy. A linear model follows the path of make, use, then dispose. In contrast, in a circular economy, we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of their service life. As a result, a circular economy also offers a way to improve Europe’s competitiveness and resource efficiency.
The unique characteristics of plastics enable them to play a major role on the road to a more sustainable and resource efficient future. Lightweight, versatile and durable plastics can help save key resources such as energy and water in strategic sectors that include packaging, building and construction, automotive and renewable energy, to name but a few. In addition, plastics applications in packaging can help reduce food waste. However, to improve the circularity of plastics, it is essential to make sure that more and more plastic waste is recovered and doesn’t end up in landfill or in the environment.
In developing a roadmap for a circular economy, it is important to ensure that decisions around appropriate solutions are based on sustainability considered across the entire life cycle rather than simply considering resource efficiency aspects only at the end of life of a product. Plastics make a significant contribution to a circular economy when their entire life cycle is examined. For more information see: life cycle thinking.
Plastics’ contribution to a sustainable future
You can read more about the contribution plastics can make to the circular economy in the following publications.
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- October 2017: Industry calls for all packaging to be separately collected to increase recycling
- September 2017: PlasticsEurope's Views on a Strategy on Plastics: Plastics - Increasing Circularity and Resource Efficiency
- March 2017: Statement on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's report "The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action"
- May 2016: Zero Plastics to Landfill by 2025
- May 2016: Towards a life cycle driven circular economy
- January 2016: Infographic: The Unknown Life of Plastics
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