Materials

Eunomia to gather evidence for European Commission’s plastics strategy

Eunomia Research & Consulting, alongside digital consulting and communications company ICF, has been assigned the task of developing the evidence base for the European Commission’s upcoming Plastics Strategy, expected at the end of 2017.

Amid growing concerns about levels of marine plastic pollution, with Eunomia itself estimating that some 12.2 million tonnes of plastic entering the marine environment every year and concern over the effects of this pollution on marine ecosystems, the new research will explore new ways to increase plastic recycling and and reduce the industry’s reliance on raw materials.

Eunomia to gather evidence for European Commission’s plastics strategy
Through engaging with stakeholders, Eunomia aims to highlight the obstacles preventing key objectives in the Plastics Strategy from being achieved and to identify opportunities to shift the plastics economy to a more circular operation through the prevention of certain plastic wastes, making products recyclable and reusable by design and increasing recycling performance.

Eunomia released a wide-ranging study on marine plastic pollution in 2016, finding that over 80 per cent of plastics entering the marine environment come from land-based sources, and that the biggest density of plastic being found on beaches rather than the surface of the ocean, rendering prevention the best form of defence as opposed to ocean cleanup projects.

Speaking about the new partnership, Tim Elliott, Technical Manager of the project at Eunomia, commented: “It is clear that plastics have a very broad range of applications. The use of the material has increased rapidly and is continuing to grow. However, more could be done to ensure the material is used responsibly, and managed effectively at the end of its first life.

“The push for additional action comes as the evidence mounts regarding the negative effects of plastic entering our natural environment, resulting in harm to wildlife. The prevalence of littered plastic, and the relatively low levels at which many plastics are recycled, suggests that more needs to be done to effectively tackle these problems.”

As part of the evidence-gathering project, European institutions, public authorities, industry, social enterprise groups, environmental civil society organisations and resource communities are invited to attend the ‘Reinventing Plastics - Closing the Circle’ conference in Brussels on 26 September to discuss the issues, challenges and opportunities within the new strategy.

A new plastics economy

The European Commission included a strategy for plastics in its circular economy action plan but received criticism from NGOs at the start of the year over its vision of a circular transition for plastics.

Despite the Commission proclaiming that good progress was being made on its transition to a circular economy back in January and laying out a roadmap towards its new Plastics Strategy in the same month, the Break Free From Plastic movement comprising 90 NGOs from around the world and 20 organisations from Europe accused the Commission’s plan of not getting to the root of the plastics problem, asserting that the strategy must focus on ‘reducing and optimising the use of plastics’.

The focus on plastics has sharpened in recent times, with initiatives to reduce society’s consumption and reckless disposal of the material being implemented around the world.

One of the most significant of which, in terms of vision and far-reaching support is the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum’s ‘new plastics economy’, outlined in a report - ‘The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics’ - published by the two organisations in early 2016.

The strategy, which gained the support of some 40 industry leaders in early 2017, including the CEOs of Unilever, Danone and Veolia, aims to radically increase recycling, scale up the adoption of reusable and compostable packaging, improve after-use collection, storage and reprocessing infrastructure and increase the economic attractiveness of keeping materials in the system.

More information about the ‘Reinventing Plastics - Closing the Circle’ conference can be found on the event’s webpage.

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