2018 Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference opens in Brussels

2018 Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference
European Commissioner Frans Timmermans © Partij van de Arbeid

The 2018 Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference has opened in Brussels, Belgium, with European Commissioners Frans Timmermans and Elżbieta Bieńkowska highlighting the EU’s plastics strategy.

Commissioner Frans Timmermans welcomed participants at the 2018 Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference, which has been held annually since 2015, by highlighting the growing global consensus on the need for a circular approach to economic development.

Following this, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska detailed the EU’s vital new plastics strategy, and explained how it will serve to reduce plastic pollution in Europe’s oceans and reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste overall.

Europe’s approach to waste

Timmermans focused on reforms to Europe’s waste management system, which he called “the most advanced regional system in the world”. A recent provisional agreement between the European Parliament and the European Council will seek to offer certainty to industries about the future of waste management.

In addition to the waste management strategies already adopted, the commissioner drew attention to some alternative areas, where more effort is needed: “There are other important work streams too, from synergizing our chemicals and waste policies, to financing and research, to awareness raising and better tracking and measurement of the progress we are making in the circular economy.”

Timmermans concluded his address by raising the topic of the EU’s new plastics strategy, and emphasised the fact that it introduces a new business case for recycling plastic: Our plastics strategy sets out a new vision for a smart, innovative and sustainable plastics industry, with reuse and recycling activities integrated into production chains.

“This is a huge opportunity for European industry, and I am so pleased when I hear major economic players embracing what we are doing. It is so much easier when industry and NGOs and the public sector work together,” he added.

The EU’s plastics strategy

Bieńkowska took the opportunity to herald recent developments on the commission’s third circular economy package, which also introduced its much-lauded plastics strategy. The commission will expand on its plastics strategy with a new agenda, to be published in 2018.

The commissioner highlighted a number of measures which the EU is considering in terms of further supporting its plastics ambitions, and which could appear in the upcoming strategy. This might include:

  • Developing alternative feedstocks for plastic production;
  • Boosting the market for recycled plastics;
  • Fiscal measures on plastics at EU level; and
  • Specific funds for innovation in the plastics sector.

The commissioner concluded by highlighting the public’s role in making the strategy a reality: “All plastics packaging are set to be reused or easily recycled by 2030 … We will support this by developing a strategic innovation agenda for plastics, which will be released later this year. I cannot say exactly what will be in it, but it is clear that we will need more standardisation and awareness raising campaigns.”

The 2018 Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference will be held over two days, from 20-21 February.

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