Representation in United Kingdom

Tackling plastic pollution: Commission sets 2030 target to make all plastic packaging recyclable

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Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution

All plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030 under plans to tackle plastic pollution published by the European Commission. Currently, less than 30% of the 25 million tonnes of plastic waste generated by Europeans is collected for recycling. The EU-wide strategy on plastics also aims to reduce single-use plastics which represent half of all marine litter, as well as restrict the use of micro plastics. 


The new EU-wide plastic strategy will transform the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. Too often the way plastics are made and discarded harm the environment and fail to capture the economic benefits of a more circular approach ie where resources are used in a more sustainable way ie where design and production fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs.

Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. The million tonnes of plastic litter that end up in the oceans every year are one of their most visible and alarming signs of the plastics problem, causing growing public concern. In particular, plastic packaging accounts for about 60% of all plastic waste generated annually in the EU with around 95% of its value – in the region of 70-105bn euro – lost to the EU economy every year.

Presenting an overview of the plastics strategy first Vice-President Frans Timmermans responsible for sustainable development, warned: 

"We can't live without plastics, but we can be killed by them if we don't change our policies."

"If we don't change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies. The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more. This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together. With the EU Plastics Strategy we are also driving a new and more circular business model."

EU plastic strategy at a glance

Make recycling profitable for business:

New rules on packaging will improve the recyclability of plastics and increase the demand for recycled plastics. This will save around a hundred euros per tonne collected and help deliver greater added value for a more competitive, resilient plastics industry.

Curb plastic waste: European legislation has already led to a significant reduction in plastic bag use in several Member States.  The new plans will now turn to other single-use plastics and fishing gear and supporting national awareness campaigns. The scope of new EU-wide rules to be drawn up will be based on stakeholder consultation. The Commission will propose measures to restrict the use of micro plastics in products (plastic particles smaller than 5 mm), and fix labels for biodegradable and compostable plastics.

Stop littering at sea: New rules on port reception facilities will tackle sea-based marine litter with measures to ensure waste generated on ships or gathered at sea is not left behind but returned to land and adequately dealt with.

Investment and innovation: The Commission will provide guidance to national authorities and EU businesses on how to minimise plastic waste at source. Support for innovation will be scaled up, with an additional €100 million to help develop smarter and more recyclable plastics materials, making recycling processes more efficient, and tracing and removing hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics.

Spur change globally: The EU will work with partners from around the world to come up with global solutions and develop international standards, whilst also continuing to support projects such as the clean-up of the Ganga River in India.

The Plastics Strategy will also help the EU reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement objectives on climate change.

Next Steps

The Commission will launch the work on the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and prepare guidelines on separate collection and sorting of waste to be issued in 2019.

The new Directive on port reception facilities proposed today will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption.

The Commission will present the proposal on single-use plastics later in 2018. Stakeholders have until 12 February 2018 to contribute to the ongoing public consultation.

Full list of measures and timeline here.

Factsheets and Q&A