Good afternoon everybody, and thank you for this opportunity to say a few words about the new strategy. Almost a month since the launch, we are still on a high, because the initial reaction was very positive. When it comes to civil society, I would even say that the reaction was extremely positive.
That’s not just gratifying, it’s also very valuable. You can’t do anything important unless you have the people on your side. They are the actors, they are the consumers who make the decisions that determine the future for Europe’s industries.
But civil society isn’t our only audience. We have another audience that is equally important. And that’s why I am particularly pleased to be here with Cesare, because that other audience is our stakeholders, and that means you, ladies and gentlemen. This strategy is actually all about you. We designed it with you in mind, because you are the ones who are actually going to implement most of it.
So I am here today because I want to stress how important you are to us as partners. We share a common aim – making Europe’s plastic industry sustainable. This industry employs one and half million people. I want to build a better future for them, a future that is good for manufacturers and distributors, and of course a future that is good for the planet, which we all depend on.
To do that, we need an industry that is smart, innovative and built for the longer term. An industry that has reuse and recycling integrated into production chains, bringing growth, jobs and added value in Europe. The sort of industry that provides a fertile ground for social innovation and entrepreneurship, nurturing opportunities that haven't been thought of yet.
That's what we have in mind with our new strategy for plastics.
I'm sure you've read all about it, but let's briefly recall the main elements. There are four. Improving the economics and quality of plastic recycling, curbing plastic waste and littering, driving investment and innovation, and harnessing global action.
From the outset, we've been clear that this isn't just about good intentions. It's about good economics. We can't wish the new plastics economy into being. We have to create the conditions to make it happen. We understand the need to improve the economics and the quality of plastic recycling.
That's why we start with a big headline target. We want to make all plastic packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030. It's the "big on the big things" idea. Plastic packaging is 60 percent of all of Europe's plastics waste, so by acting here we tackle the biggest problem first. And then we complement that by stimulating design for circularity, boosting recycled content and encouraging separate waste collection.
We are already off to a very good start. New targets in Europe's waste legislation have just been agreed, with a specific plastic packaging recycling target of 55% by 2030, in addition to an overall municipal waste recycling target of 65% by 2035.
The current uptake of recycled plastics in new products is very low, as you know, only around 6%, and it's mainly low-value or niche applications. That needs to change. Low demand means low incentives to invest in the processing capacity that will improve the quality of recyclates, bringing down costs. It's a vicious circle.
The way to break that circle is to generate sufficient economies of scale. We need a measure of good will, so we are starting with a pledging campaign, asking all stakeholders to make voluntary pledges to boost the uptake of recycled plastics. These pledges are very important, but we won't stop there. We will be looking into other incentives, and how to remove the barriers that are slowing the uptake of recycled plastics in various domains, from packaging to cars.
We are also looking to set up a reliable, trustworthy system to verify recycled content, to build confidence about what goes into recyclates.
This broad policy approach, with pledges from industry and determination from the public, should provide a more stable revenue flow and better return on investment for the recycling sector. The basis of a more sustainable future.
The second strand is curbing plastic waste. When half the litter found on Europe's beaches is single-use plastics, you know you have a problem. Citizens want action, they want strong, effective action, and we intend to deliver.
We will start by renewing efforts to stop plastic waste like bottles, cutlery and cups and lids from entering our environment in the first place. Our focus to deliver this will be through our new legislative proposal on single-use plastics.
It is being shaped as I speak, and we aim to adopt it in May. Input from the public consultation, which closed last week, will help us optimise the approach. Single-use plastics are a broad social issue, and solving it means adopting a different mind set. The Commission is setting a good example. We are phasing out all single-use plastic cups in water fountains and vending machines in all of our buildings and meetings. I hope many others will follow this lead.
Moving on to the third strand, one of the problems that surprised us when we were developing the strategy was quite simply the knowledge gap. So we will be making a major effort to address that gap.
There are several elements here. The first is a new Strategic Research Innovation Agenda for Plastics, to guide future EU funding decisions. The focus will be the redesign of smarter and more recyclable plastic materials and products, more efficient recycling processes, removing hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics, and addressing microplastics.
Horizon 2020 will play an important role as well. Europe's biggest research programme will invest an additional 100 million Euros in plastics innovation, on top of more than 250 million already invested so far. And the European Structural and Investment Funds, together with the European Funds for Strategic Investments are already supporting projects that are helping build a more sustainable and innovative plastic value chain.
We are also looking into the feasibility of a private-led investment fund. The idea is to finance investments in innovative solutions and technologies to reduce the environmental impacts of plastic production.
But however much funding Europe generates, we won't solve this problem on our own. So the last component in the strategy is global action. We have no intention of being lonely heroes in this battle. A global problem needs a global solution, so we will be working hard to get international partners on board as well. Of the many actions we carry out, working towards international standards on sorted plastic waste and recycled plastics is perhaps most important.
Ladies and gentlemen, I will stop here. I hope I've given you a good indication of the scale of our ambition, and of our determination. And let me repeat once again, it's a determination to help the industry. We believe in plastics, we believe in their future, and we want to make it happen.
To do that, we need to take this plan forward together. We need companies to come forward with more pledges to boost the uptake of recycled plastics. We've set a deadline of 30 June, and I hope to see as many as possible. The more pledges we get, the higher the level of ambition, the greater the chance of creating positive feedback loops. That is what the industry most definitely needs.
And for that, ladies and gentlemen, the ball is in your court.
I look forward to hearing your reactions.
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