In a speech at the European Plastics Converters annual conference, European Commissioner for SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska outlined the EU’s comprehensive new plastics strategy.
The European Plastics Converters annual conference took place from 24-25 May in Milan, Italy, and by speaking at the event, Bieńkowska sought to offer the gathered attendees and stakeholders an overview of how the EU’s new plastics strategy will affect the plastics sector in Europe.
Some of the proposals offered in the EU plastics strategy, such as bans on certain single-use plastic products, have concerned manufacturers, but Bieńkowska sought to reassure them that the European Commission recognises the value of plastics in all sectors, and that restrictions would serve only to promote the use of more biodegradable plastics.
She explained: “The benefits that plastics bring to our society and our economy are not put into question by the EU Plastics Strategy… Of course, this is not a call for a plastic-free economy. But plastics need to become sustainable and circular… It is the only way forward.”
How will the role of plastics in society change?
Bieńkowska insisted that plastics would remain a vital part of the EU’s overall strategy to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions as part of its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement: “In fact, plastics are making an important contribution to the de-carbonisation of our economy. For example, light and innovative materials in packaging have saved CO2 emissions in transport and have reduced food waste while ensuring food safety.”
To ensure that this becomes more sustainable, the EU intends to dramatically increase the amount of recycling it undertakes, and include a much higher percentage of recycled plastics into new products, an effort in which the support of manufacturers will be vital. According to Bieńkowska, the commission aims “to incorporate ten million tons of recycled plastic into new products, every year, by 2025. This is ambitious but also realistic.”
Finally, the commissioner sought to address concerns over what has been called a ‘plastics levy’ in the EU’s proposed multiannual financial framework. “Let me be clear,” she stated. “It is not a tax. It’s a tool to drive investments and research into the right direction.” With revenues from the levy, the commission will support research into biodegradable plastics and increase recycling efforts.