Currently less than a third, or 30%, of the 25 million tons of plastic waste collected for recycling within the European Union gets recycled. By 2025, however, that amount will have almost doubled to 55%; by 2030, to 60%; and by 2035, to 65%. That’s according to a newly passed EU law that will require the grouping’s members states to increase their recycling rates significantly in coming years.
The new law will also require European nations to adopt other environmentally friendly measures such as ensuring landfills do not increase significantly in size and that biowaste is separated from other forms of waste during municipal collection. In addition, new regulations call for renewed incentives for reusing waste materials, enhancing deposit-return schemes and facilitating food donations to reduce the mountains of food waste.
“Cities across Europe have already made steps forward to reduce waste and improve recycling. The new laws could have been more ambitious, but their successful implementation will help governments consolidate this progress with benefits for the people and society as a whole,” Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau, noted. “After years of discussions, it is now time for EU countries to walk the talk on waste reduction. These laws are necessary to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues such as pollution in our cities and environment.”
However, new laws and directives alone won’t be enough to reduce the tide of plastic waste on the continent. Changes in consumer behaviors will also be key. Plastics, including highly wasteful single-use products, have become inescapable parts of modern consumerism, especially in the form of packaging. Encouraging consumers, through educational and information campaigns, to wean themselves off single-use plastic products while practicing the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) can go a long way towards eliminating or at least moderating wasteful behaviors.
Manufacturers in the EU, too, can make a difference by designing and producing more recyclable products in areas such as packaging where disposable products proliferate with the aim of helping to reduce the continent’s plastic footprint. Bioplastics (recyclable plastics derived from renewable biomass sources) are becoming increasingly common as raw materials to meet growing demands for more sustainable products while maintaining the high quality of products.
“For almost every conventional plastic material and application, an equivalent, or even superior, alternative made from bioplastics is readily available on the market,” explains Hasso von Pogrell, managing director of European Bioplastics. “Bioplastics fulfil the same strict requirements and standards on product safety as conventional plastics, while meeting a number of additional standards and sustainability criteria and they are more closely scrutinised for their environmental footprint and use of resources.”