A European agreement which aims to 'achieve a circular economy for plastics' does not go far enough, according to campaigners.
Fifteen EU member states and 66 companies signed the 'European Plastics Pact' (pictured) during a high-level event in Brussels - which was led by the Danish, Dutch and French governments. The Break Free From Plastic movement said it 'welcomes some of the ambition' but 'regrets the lack of involvement of civil society in the process' and is concerned the 'initiative remains fully voluntary and can never replace strong regulatory measures'. European Coordinator Delphine Lévi Alvarès said: "The European Plastic Pact is a largely positive signal from a number of European countries and companies, who acknowledge that reduction measures and product redesign are crucial to address the plastic pollution crisis. "Break Free From Plastic welcomes the commitment to reduce virgin plastic products and packaging by at least 20% by 2025, with at least 10% coming from an absolute reduction of plastics.
"It is important that signatories of the pact also monitor and report the progress in reduction per unit - and not only weight - so as to ensure a true reduction in single-use products and packaging." "The targets set in the pact remain completely voluntary and that this pact cannot come as a substitute for legislation, but should complement an ambitious and prompt implementation of EU and national legislation on packaging and single-use plastics. "Break Free From Plastic also notes that there is very limited attention given to the presence of hazardous chemicals in plastic products and packaging, and measures to be taken to prevent toxic recycling. A spokesperson for the pact said: "Participating is voluntary, but signing is not without obligation. "Progress will be monitored and reported each year by all signatories. A Secretariat will keep track of the results. "The first working groups will start to set up monitoring and reporting, and discuss reduce and reuse models, design for circularity, waste shipment, food contact applications and steering the supply chain."
Participants of the European Plastics Pact commit themselves by 2025 to:
Reusability and recyclability: Design all plastic packaging and single-use plastic products placed on the market to be reusable where possible and in any case recyclable by 2025. Responsible use of plastics: Move towards a more responsible use of plastic packaging and single-use plastic products, aiming to reduce virgin plastic products and packaging by at least 20% (by weight) by 2025, with half of this reduction coming from an absolute reduction in plastics. Collection, sorting and recycling: Increase the collection, sorting and recycling capacity by at least 25 percentage points by 2025 and reach a level that corresponds to market demand for recycled plastics. Use of recycled plastics: Increase the use of recycled plastics in new products and packaging by 2025, with plastics using companies achieving an average of at least 30% recycled plastics (by weight) in their product and packaging range. Stientje van Veldhoven, Dutch Minister for Environment and Housing, said: "It’s time to change the game. If we want to tackle climate change, we need to look beyond energy to materials.
"We have to start treating plastic as the valuable raw material it is and keep it out of our oceans. We strive to reuse all plastic in the future. From your daily chocolate bar wrapper to the shampoo bottle and everything in between. This is no easy task.
"We need the chemical industry to develop easily recyclable plastic. We need more recycling capacity and we need new product design. I am proud that today, with all these frontrunners, we are putting together our efforts to make this work.” Brune Poirson, French junior Minister for Ecological and inclusive transition, said: "By passing the circular economy anti-waste act, France has set an end date for the application of all single-use plastic packaging in its law.
"This huge step requires changing production and consumption patterns within the next 20 years. Being the frontrunners of this European Plastics pact, we set the tone for all the public policies that it wants to see implemented shortly within the European Union."
Lea Wermelin, Danish Minister for Environment, added: "The European Plastics Pact is a unique opportunity for governments and businesses to work together for a greener future. Plastics is a valuable material and it is time that we should treat it as such; by reducing, reusing and recycling much more than today. We also have to remember that this is a climate change agenda.
"We need to stop incinerating plastics and curb the resulting emissions. It is my sincere hope and belief, that the European plastics pact can improve our climate footprint and prevent plastics from ending up in nature.” For more details about the European Plastics Pact click here