The European Union wants all plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2030, according to a new strategy unveiled on Tuesday by the European Commission.
The news comes just as the leading recycling country, China, announced that it is closing its doors to foreign waste. The EU exports half of its collected and sorted plastics, 85 percent of which goes to China.
In 2016, according to figures from Chinese Customs, the Asian giant had to date imported 7.3 million tons of plastic waste, mainly from Europe, Japan and the United States. In the EU, 39 percent of plastic waste ends up being incinerated to produce energy, 31 percent goes to landfill and 30 percent is recycled, according to figures from the Commission.
Announcing the proposed new policy on Tuesday, European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen said Brussels was ready to explore fiscal measures to improve recycling and prevent plastic waste, but poured cold water on the prospect of an EU-wide tax on plastics. The measures announced include curbs on throw-away items like plastic bags and restricting the use of micro-plastics. New rules on port reception facilities will tackle sea-based marine litter, with measures to ensure that waste generated on ships or gathered at sea is not dumped into the ocean but returned to land to be disposed of.
« Today’s plastic strategy will transform the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU, » the Commission said in a press release. « Too often the way plastics are currently produced, used and discarded fail to capture the economic benefits of a more circular approach. It harms the environment. The goal is to protect the environment whilst at the same time lay foundations to a new plastic economy, where the design and production fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed. »
According to Plastics Europe, the Brussels-based association of European plastics manufacturers, the industry is worth € 340 billion (2015 figures) in the EU, and employs more than 1.5 million people