EU Environment Agency: the role of plastics in Europe's cirucular economy

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Circular system required to reduce the impacts of increasing plastic waste and pollution

On June 18 the European Environment Agency published a report on "The role of plastics in Europe's circular economy". 

Over the past two decades, global plastics production and consumption rates have doubled. Between today and 2060, they are expected to triple.

Developing a circular economy is critical to making plastics more sustainable and is a central aim of the EU in its plastic strategy and recent legislation related to plastics.

Furthermore, the United Nations International Negotiating Committee is developing an international, legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

Here, data and knowledge on plastics, including their impacts and circularity, are crucial for the negotiations and any monitoring of the future agreement. Therefore, greater insight into plastics circularity and the challenges and opportunities it presents are essential.

Key messages from the report are as follows:

  • Plastic consumption in Europe is high and expected to grow in line with projected increases in global plastics production.

  • The consumption and production of plastics negatively affect the environment and spur climate change. More marine litter is washing up on Europe’s beaches, high levels of microplastics are entering the environment, and already high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the value chain are likely to increase as a result.

  •  The circularity of plastics material is increasing at a slow pace. Nevertheless, there are encouraging trends: mechanical recycling capacity is increasing, EU exports of plastics waste are decreasing, bioplastics production capacity is growing slowly, as is the use of recycled plastics.

One important piece of information to the tackle industry and everybody collecting, or planning to collect, used angling lines, spools and other angling plastic products for recycling:

"Until recently, we did not have enough capacity to process the plastic waste collected for recycling in the EU. This means that the EU was not self-sufficient and EU waste operators had no choice but to export waste for recycling.

However, recently, mechanical recycling capacity has been increasing faster than the plastic waste collected. As a result, we can now handle all the plastic waste sent for recycling."


=>Click here to read the full report of the European Environmental Agency (EEA)