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News Article

European Commission unveils plastics recycling strategy


Strategy aims to reduce pollution by boosting all stages of recycling economy

The European Commission has adopted a strategy to make all plastic packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030, reduce the production of single use plastics and restrict production of microplastics.

The EC strategy document outlines the problem. Europeans generate around 25 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, but less than 30% is collected for recycling. This waste is polluting the world and getting into food and water as well as endangering marine life. Plastic generation worldwide has increased 20-fold since the 1960s and will double again in the next 2 decades, according to the Commission. China receives much of Europe’s plastics for recycling and it recently announced a plan to restrict the plastics it will accept for that purpose. This restriction means Europe needs to find another way of dealing with the waste.

Plastic is useful to the food industry. It’s light compared to alternatives so cuts transport costs, packaging can be made airtight reducing contamination and allowing for modified atmosphere packaging to keep foods fresher for longer. Plastic packaging also reduces damage in transit.

The European Commission sees developing the recycling economy as the best approach to reducing pollution. The approach aims to improve product design for recycling, improve recycling infrastructure and boost markets for recycled materials. The Commission will work with EFSA to develop methods to prevent food contamination and with the European Committee for Standardisation to develop quality standards for recycled plastics, important for encouraging their use. The EU will also be financing research and development into plastics contamination and using economic incentives to increase recycling.

The European Commission rules out increasing use of biodegradable plastics and aims to make sure these products are labelled accurately and in a way that discourages litter and promotes correct disposal. Recent evidence suggests some biodegradable plastics are not as degradable as first thought. The use of one kind, oxo-plastics will be restricted along with microplastics.

In a separate move, the UK supermarket Iceland has pledged to remove plastic from its own brand products by 2023 and it already plans to introduce return schemes for plastic bottles, a practice that supermarkets in other European countries have adopted. Other UK supermarkets have committed to reducing plastic too.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • I. Hoskins
  • Date
  • 22 January 2018
  • Source
  • European Commission
  • Subject(s)
  • Food technology