Brussels — The European Commission adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics Jan. 16 as part of the transition toward a more circular economy.
The strategy calls for changes in product design, production, use and recycling within the European Union and involves investment opportunities and jobs within the sector.
Under the new plan, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.
"If we don't change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050," said First Vice President Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development.
With the EU Plastics Strategy, noted Timmermans, the union is also driving a new and more circular business model.
"We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive.
As part of the new strategy, the EU will make recycling profitable for business by developing new rules on packaging, which will improve the recyclability of plastics used on the market and increase the demand for recycled plastic content.
"With more plastic being collected, improved and scaled up recycling facilities should be set up, alongside a better and standardised system for the separate collection and sorting of waste across the EU," the European Commission said in a Jan. 16 statement.
This, according to the EC, will save around 100 euros ($122) per metric ton collected.
Preparatory work for future revision of the new directive will start in the first quarter of 2018.
As part of this, the commission will initiate work on new harmonized rules to ensure that by 2030 all plastics packaging placed on the EU market can be reused or recycled in a cost effective manner.
Additionally, the new plans will aim to reduce plastic waste through significant reduction in plastic bag use.
Analytical work is being carried out to determine the scope of a legislative initiative on single-use plastics, with a proposal to be submitted later in 2018.
To drive investment and innovation, the Commission will provide guidance for national authorities and European businesses on how to minimize plastic waste at source.
The EU will also work toward finding global solutions for waste management and will support other nations in their drive to clean up oceans and waterways.
Commenting on the EU's pledge to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030, Helen McGeough, PCI Wood Mackenzie Senior Consultant, voiced her concern on the effectiveness of the plan.
"While the strategy has made some positive steps, it may be a missed opportunity to take the lead in bringing about the seismic change required to turn the tide on the plastics waste and pollution issues. Change is afoot, but how quickly and effectively individual nations and industries will respond to these challenges is now the million dollar question," she added.
The European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) also welcomed the strategy, saying it would support and actively contribute to additional EU measures that may flow from the strategy with regard to packaging.