Plastics Europe: Plastic is too valuable to be landfilled

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Caroline Seidel Patrick Thomas, CEO of Covestro AG and chairman of the European trade group Plastics Europe, speaks at an event during K 2016

Düsseldorf, Germany — The global plastics industry needs to have “zero tolerance” toward plastic waste, according to Patrick Thomas, the chairman of European trade body Plastics Europe.

Speaking at a presentation at K 2016, Thomas, who also is chief executive of German materials giant Covestro AG, said it was “utterly ludicrous” to put plastic waste in the ground.

The industry already had a zero tolerance toward plastic going to landfill and ending up in the marine environment, and it had to show the same attitude toward plastic waste in general, he argued.

“Every tonne of plastic that goes to landfill is a waste. It is too valuable a resource to go that way,” he said.

And Thomas said there were 100 environmental projects around the world involving 65 trade organizations seeking to highlight the issue of marine waste and educate consumers on disposing of their plastic waste responsibly so that it did not end up in the marine environment.

“Plastic should never find its way into the sea,” he added.

Thomas said consumers had to change their behavior in order to raise recycling rates, with some countries being better than others at getting its citizens to “do the right thing.”

And as restrictions on landfill came into effect, countries that had brought in legislation saw recycling activity increase, Thomas argued.

Areas that should be addressed to boost recycling included resource efficiency, education, public policy, the sharing of best practice and the right infrastructure being in place to deal with the waste flow, he added.

“The plastics industry, and particularly the industry in Europe, is resilient and aware of the challenges it faces. It has always adapted, and it will continue to do so to make the world a better place,” Thomas said.

The Covestro boss said he believed end-of-life vehicle directive had failed, since fewer than half Europe’s vehicles had been captured in the data that was presented.

“Without an accurate understanding of what information you are dealing with, you cannot design policy. And understanding the impacts of the policy is vital,” he said.

Brussels-based Plastics Europe is “actively engaged” in seeing that actual figures were being taken on board, Thomas said.

Karl Foerster, Plastics Europe’s executive director, meanwhile confirmed that the trade body’s new packaging group would focus on, among other issues, life-cycle issues around packaging.

“At the end of its life, it is a valuable resource,” he said.