European Parliament member urges serious look at recycling

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Shahrzad Pourriahi Gerban-Jan Gerbrandy opened Plastics Recycling Show Europe in Amsterdam on 29 March

Member of European Parliament Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy has urged the European Commission to take plastics recycling seriously in its upcoming plastics strategy report set for later this year.

The MEP made his comments at his opening remarks at the Plastics Recycling Show Europe in Amsterdam on March 29. PRS is organized by Plastics News Europe, a sister publication of Plastics News.

“Plastics are everywhere and we can’t imagine a world without them. Also economically, they are huge. In Europe, almost 1.5 million people have jobs related to plastics and it creates and astronomical turnover of 350 billion euros ($376.2 billion) in Europe,” Gerbrandy said.

But unfortunately, he added, plastics are in some places we don’t want them to be including trees, rivers, oceans and stomachs of many wild animals. 

“Millions of tonnes of plastics end up in oceans each year, creating problems for the environment. For that reason, bans for plastic bags are being introduced all over the world, from Indonesia, to Colombia to Morocco. And recently, the city of Delhi with 19 million population — which is bigger than the entire Netherlands — has introduced a total ban on the use of disposable plastic,” the politician pointed out.

But littering, he said, is only one of the problems with plastics.

“Later this year, the European Commission will publish a strategy on plastics and it’ll be based on three fundamental problems with plastics,” he said

The problems, according to Gerbrandy, is that plastics are mostly made of fossil fuel; there is low rate of recycling and leakage into the environment, including microplastics.

These, he said, are the “fundamental problems that the European Commission will discuss for its plastics strategy.”

Referring to the New Plastics Economy report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) and the World Economic Forum, published in 2016, he said some 86 percent of plastics worldwide are not collected for recycling.

This means, he added, a value of $80-$120 billion is lost to the economy annually.

“In combination with the problems I just mentioned, it is clear that something has to be done,” said Gerbrandy.

Citing the three proposals put forward by the foundation for redesigning, reusing and recycling plastics packaging, he said the decision makers at the European Commission should use the findings of the EMF for its plastics strategy.

“They only need to be aware of the huge opportunities the new approach and the high costs of ‘business as usual,’” he added.

“I’m certain that a few people within the commission are aware [of the benefits of recycling]… The awareness is present but as I said it is [not] sufficiently present. Somehow they are afraid that the European economy is not ready for such a transition yet. But they are totally underestimating the support for such measures. Take plastic bags, we have bans on plastic bags all around Europe. And policy makers fear that people would be strongly against it. But not only are these policies extremely effective, but public support is huge,” he concluded.

Plastics Recycling Show Europe is held in Amsterdam 29-30 March.

In a plenary session of the European Parliament on March 14, members voted for legislation for the European Union to aim for a recycling rate target of 70 percent by 2030. For packaging materials, including paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, metal and wood, MEPs proposed an 80 percent target for 2030, with interim 2025 targets for each material.

MEPs also supported “waste package” plans for the EU to limit the share of packaging going to landfills to 5 percent and to deliver a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. You can read more about the European Parliament vote here.