Every year, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30% is collected for recycling. According to estimates, only 5% of the value of plastic packaging material retains in the economy, the rest is lost after a very short first-use. The annual bill accounts for between €70 and €105 billion. Europe cannot afford this.
Furthermore, unrecycled plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. The million tonnes of plastic litter that end up in the oceans every year is one of their most visible and alarming signs of the plastics problem. And with a single market for goods, this is a problem that necessarily requires a joint European response.
This is the reason why the European Commission has adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics which is part of the transition towards a more circular economy. The strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution while fostering growth and innovation. There is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU and by taking the lead in this transition, new investment opportunities and jobs will be created.
Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.
- Turning today’s challenges into opportunities: a European strategy for plastics in a circular economy
- EU leading global action: a European strategy for plastics in a circular economy
- A strong and sustainable European plastics industry
- A plastics strategy to protect Europe’s citizens and the environment.
As this related Research*EU Results Pack publication explains (English), bioplastics can play an important role in the new strategy. Encompassing a whole family of materials with different properties and applications, bioplastics can be made from renewable resources such as crops and wood, or from waste streams such as the residues of food processing.