European Union adopts plastics strategy

The EU will carry out an impact assessment on the taxing of single use plastics.

Announcing a new policy push on Tuesday, European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said Brussels is mulling a tax, curbs on throw-away items like plastic bags, imposing quality standards and new rules at ports among other restrictions.

Oil-derived plastic mostly ends up in landfills or incinerated, with less than 30 percent of 25 million tonnes of plastic waste generated each year being recycled in Europe.

Microplastics are also enter the air, water and food systems with unknown consequences on human and wildlife health.

Frans Timmermans, the Commission vice president responsible for sustainable development, said: "If we don't change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050".

The Commission has already taken a number of steps to try to reduce plastic, particularly single-use shopping bags.

The EU said it was considering a tax on plastic packaging as it declared war on plastic waste.

The Commission's strategy aims to rid the seas and oceans from the "700 kilogrammes" of plastics it says get washed up each day, and it "will take measures to limit the use of microplastics" found in cosmetics and detergents.

Other elements of the European Union plan include new rules on the waste generated on board ships - such as measures to ensure it is not tipped overboard but rather deposited at the port and disposed of there.

European Union adopts plastics strategy
European Union adopts plastics strategy

In addition, the plan would boost funding and investment in more environmentally friendly recyclable plastic materials and improve recycling processes.

The Commission claims that Europe is best placed to lead this transition and the new approach will bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation.

McGeough added: "By introducing a specific EU Plastics Strategy, the EU Commission has identified that plastic and plastic pollution is an area that needs focused attention and definitive action. Change is afoot, but how quickly and effectively individual nations and industries will respond to these challenges is now the million-dollar question".

Pack2Go Europe also said that it saw positives in the EU's plastics strategy.

Make recycling profitable for business: New rules on packaging will be developed to improve the recyclability of plastics used on the market and increase the demand for recycled plastic content. The Commission will launch the work on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and prepare guidelines on separate collection and sorting of waste to be issued in 2019.

"We remain committed to strengthening the sustainability of all aspects of the packaging value chain and supporting EU efforts towards a Circular Economy", said Hans Van Bochove, EUROPEN chairman. The topic is finally hitting mainstream discourse, triggered by events such as China's new ban on plastic imports and BBC's Blue Planet II getting people talking in ways they never have before.

The European Commission adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package on 2 December 2015, of which today's measures form part.

Going forward, there are also significant prospects for developing an innovative circular plastics industry worldwide.

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