A consultation on how to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment has been launched after the European Commission published a Strategy on Plastic Waste in the Environment.
The green paper published by the European Commission, European Strategy on Plastic Waste in the Environment, explains that plastic is often perceived as a cheap and disposable material and recycling rates for plastic are low. The consultation aimed to start this discussion about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
The Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) gave its answers to all 26 of the questions posed within the consultation document, it also gave particular credibility to moves which will end the landfilling of plastic waste and ensure that it is treated higher up in the waste hierarchy.
CEWEP’s managing director, Ella Stengler, said:
“This will help the EU reach its energy and resource efficiency aims. Sustainable material recycling and energy recovery are complementary means to divert waste from landfills.”
The organised has said that plastic waste is clean enough and suitable for economically feasible recycling, and that it should be recycled into new useful products. Additionally, quality standards for plastic recycling should be developed, based on environmental and economic criteria.
Any remaining plastic waste should be treated in energy efficient waste to energy plants where CEWEP said its energy content can be put to good use and reduce Europe’s high dependence on expensive imports of fossil fuels.
Addressing the question posed by the green paper of whether plastic wastes sent for energy recovery should be subject to addition taxes, the organisation said that this would be counterproductive and would not help to achieve quality recycling, as there is no competition between quality recycling and energy recovery for waste.
According CEWEP Taxes would only make local energy production more expensive for citizens and industry without providing any additional environmental benefit.
Within the consultation document, the CEWEP also noted that plastic, unlike metals, cannot be recycled indefinitely, this is because the material quality decreases with each recycling cycle and the reason for this is because the polymeric chains constituting the plastics becomes shorter.
“Thus, mechanical recycling extends the useful life of plastic materials, but at some point plastic materials will become too degraded for mechanical recycling. In this case it is better to turn the plastic waste into energy in a waste to energy plant rather than landfilling it,” said the document.
“There is no technical, environmental and certainly no economic reason to limit energy recovery of plastics wastes that are not suitable for quality recycling,” it concluded.
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