Voluntary sustainability agreements and the increasing interest in ‘chemical recycling’ as part of a circular economy have been major themes at PlasticsEurope’s annual IdentiPlast event in London. The event brought to light the need for change in plastic firms in terms of waste management.
The key focus was on the recycling and recovery of used plastics with discussions around the European Union’s recent Circular Economy Directive and the Single Use Plastic Directive, which is due to be formally adopted within days.
Delegates also considered the European manufacturers’ voluntary commitment that’s set to hit a 60% rate for reuse and recycling of plastic packaging by 2030.
Javier Constante, PlasticsEurope President and Senior Executive with Dow Europe said regulatory moves and voluntary sector agreements had both followed pressure from society and NGOs: “There was a tsunami of actions forcing us to take urgent action.”
Vice President, Tom Crotty, believed a realistic roof for plastic packaging was around 40%, arguing the rest could be met in the future with the “technical challenge” of chemical recycling, by which waste polymers are processed into monomers to create new plastics.
His view was further supported by Chairman of the World Plastic Council, Jim Seward, who said “it makes more sense to get to molecules that can be fed back into the production process rather than going into a fuel stream.”
“A fuel stream is still better than landfill but this is a key area where innovation technology is critical to get as far up the hierarchy of value as we can. Energy recovery is very important and will remain so for a period of time but it is bottom of the list in terms of how you calculate value and economic sustainability.”
Crotty later said he’d “like to see regulators taking a position that welcomes the fact we need to work together but we are not seeing that from all the NGOs… I’m sorry but there are no baddies, everybody needs to get together to solve these problems”
Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General of the European Commission’s environment directorate echoed Crotty’s view in stating “we will never succeed in this transition if we don’t work together”.
Defra’s resources minister Therese Coffey in a video addresse recorded for the event stated “Voluntary agreements such as the UK Plastic Pact are trail-blazing initiatives to bring together businesses across the plastic value chain to tackle plastic waste. It must not be forgotten that it is the Government’s responsibility to put in place the required policy and regulatory frameworks to reinforce such agreements.”