What are the main opportunities and challenges for the European plastics industry in the circular economy? What are the best practices and most advanced know-how in waste management around Europe and the world? How can we prevent plastic waste ending up in the environment?
These are some of the key questions raised during the 13th edition of IdentiPlast – PlasticsEurope’s international conference on the recycling and recovery of plastics. Some 300 experts from European municipalities, local authorities, policy and decision makers, waste management organisations, NGOs, plastics value chain, academia and research institutes gathered in Vienna on 22 and 23 February to share their views and experiences in the fields of plastic waste management and circular economy.
The event focused on how countries in Central and Southeast Europe can best benefit from the latest experience in Europe and in other parts of the world (particularly in US, Japan and Turkey) in order to improve their own waste management practices and infrastructure.
"The circular economy creates a momentum to look towards the future and improve Europe’s competitiveness and resource efficiency” said Karl-H. Foerster, Executive Director of PlasticsEurope. "For this to happen, we must not only accelerate innovation but also look at the overall resource savings a particular product provides over its entire life cycle, not just after use. These two elements: innovation and full life thinking, must go hand in hand to achieve a resource efficient circular economy”.
In his keynote speech, Maurits van Tol, Senior Vice President of Borealis, emphasised the importance of closing the loop to avoid waste entering the environment. "Plastics should never end up in the environment. Used plastics should be considered a valuable raw material”, Van Tol pointed out. "A better implementation and enforcement of existing waste legislation has the potential to increase recycling and recovery rates while creating jobs in Europe” he added.
Dr Hugo-Maria Schally, European Commission, DG Environment (Eco-innovation & Circular Economy), emphasised on the type of circular economy that the EU should aspire to: "Plastic materials are a driver of our economy, but a number of environmental issues related to their production, use, and end-of-life need to be tackled. Plastics is therefore one of the five priority areas addressed in the "EU action plan for the Circular Economy". The plan sets out a clear commitment to preparing a strategy that addresses the challenges posed by plastics throughout the value chain and taking into account their entire life-cycle, such as reuse, recyclability, biodegradability, the presence of hazardous substances of concerns in certain plastics and marine litter”, said Mr Schally.
IdentiPlast 2017 also hosted the 2017 EPRO Awards ceremony which selected the Best Recycled Plastic Products. This years’ edition was organised by PlasticsEurope in cooperation with "Umweltbundesamt”, the Environmental Agency of Austria; and supported by Borealis, EREMA Group, Altstoff Recycling Austria (ARA), American Chemistry Council (ACC), Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) and Plastics Waste Management Institute of Japan.
20 years ago, PlasticsEurope saw the need to close the knowledge gap in the recovery of used plastics. Since then, IdentiPlast has enjoyed growing success. Initially, only a one-day conference at the heart of the European Union, in Brussels, focusing on the sorting of used plastics. IdentiPlast soon became an international event focused on sharing best practice in the collection, sorting and recycling of used plastics.
In 2010, it was decided to use IdentiPlast to accelerate the transfer of knowledge on the latest improvements in waste management to those European countries lagging behind in waste infrastructures - where the impact would be greatest in the recovery of plastics and its diversion out of landfill sites. IdentiPlast subsequently travelled to London then to Madrid, Warsaw, Paris and Rome. Today, IdentiPlast remains faithful to its original mission of being a technical conference and the place where best practices in the management of plastic waste are exchanged between all stakeholders who are committed to attach value to end-of-life plastics.