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Resource Efficiency

Public consultation backs Commission over increased action on recycling of plastic waste


The European Union should stop funding landfill sites and incineration and start using public money to upgrade recycling infrastructures in Europe according to the results of the European Commission’s recent public consultation on the Green Paper on Plastic Waste. A preview of respondents’ views was given by the European Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, during a speech to a conference in Brussels on ‘The role of plastic waste in a circular economy’. He said the Green Paper fitted into the Commission’s efforts to make the use of resources more efficient, to develop a circular economy, and to combat marine pollution. Read more…

The Green Paper, which deals specifically with plastic waste as a single horizontal waste stream, drew responses from industry, NGOs and governments and, to a lesser extent, EU citizens. Commissioner Potočnik told the conference that nearly half of all respondents had called for improvements to waste sorting and collection in Member State countries, preferably through separate doorstep collections combined with ‘pay as you throw’ schemes. A large majority wanted improved legislation and better implementation, including a landfill ban on plastics.

The consultation results highlighted the need to improve information to consumers, particularly on the recyclability of plastic. A majority of respondents favoured the development of ‘deposit and return’ systems, or lease systems, and there was strong support for improved plastic design to increase recyclability, and tackling ‘planned obsolescence’ in products. Increasing concern was also expressed over marine litter and plastic waste. Respondents called for greater awareness raising of the problemand the introduction of coastal clean-up days that could be coordinated at EU level. A significant majority called for stronger EU engagement at an international level to improve environmentally-sound waste management globally.

Commissioner Potočnik said that Europe was starting to move in the right direction, with preparatory work already under way in the upcoming waste review on diverting plastics from landfill and increasing recycling targets. Other issues would be addressed as part of the regulatory fitness checks on European waste stream directives, particularly the Packaging Waste Directives. He announced that the Commission would also very soon be adopting a specific legislative proposal concerning lightweight plastic bags.

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Janez Potočnik’s speech at conference on ‘The role of plastic waste in a circular economy’

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