4 November 2013

Towards and efficient European waste legislation – recommendations by European Bioplastics

Adequate measures should be adopted to promote biobased plastics and plastics that are biodegradable and compostable

European Bioplastics considers the European Commission’s “Green Paper on Plastic Waste in the Environment” timely and appreciates its ongoing work to address policy challenges posed by plastic waste currently not in the EU waste legislation.

European Bioplastics also welcomes the European Parliament INI draft report on a “European Strategy on Plastic Waste in the Environment” by rapporteur Member of Parliament Vittorio Prodi. The benefits of bioplastics should be taken into account when discussing and deciding on this report.

Economic sustainability of bioplastics

Bioplastics are economically innovative and still have much potential for further economic growth along the value chain. While Europe is leading in R&D and as a large-scale producer of biomass, it needs to step up the transformation of research knowledge to industrial applications. A policy framework that supports market uptake would help many bioplastic products reach economies of scale faster and generate sustainable economic growth in Europe.

Environmental sustainability of bioplastics

Biobased plastics save limited fossil resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus reduce the carbon footprint of products. Bioplastics can also make a considerable contribution to increased resource efficiency through biomass use cascades. Furthermore, they are suitable for a range of end-of-life options, such as reuse, mechanical or organic recycling, and energy recovery. Bioplastics can therefore contribute to reduced waste generation and increase the efficiency of waste collection.

Social sustainability of bioplastics

Bioplastics can provide future European employment growth, as bioplastic production is a growing industrial sector. With an eye on rural development, bioplastics can make a contribution by providing income in rural areas that might otherwise decline. Furthermore, a European knowledge base will grow around the bioplastics industry, providing highly skilled employment for generations.

European Bioplastics translated these obvious benefits into concrete recommendations with regard to the INI report on a “European strategy on plastic waste in the environment”:

European Bioplastics fully agrees that adequate measures should be adopted to promote biobased plastics and plastics that are biodegradable and compostable.

European Bioplastics supports the gradual and progressive introduction of plastic waste recycling targets. However, the legislative measures should be designed in a way that they do not hinder but support the development and market introduction of bioplastics. This could be achieved e.g. through the promotion of recycling of biobased plastics and through valuation of the biobased carbon content, such as the automatic accounting of biobased carbon content in bioplastics, towards the fulfilment of the plastics packaging recycling quota.

European Bioplastics welcomes the call for further promotion of organic recycling, i.e. composting and anaerobic digestion. The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive defines organic recycling of packaging and also sets the essential requirements for biodegradable packaging. If recycling or composting are non available options, then biobased plastics could be incinerated with heat recovery. In this case, renewable energy is produced, since the carbon is coming from a renewable resource – similar to using wood for renewable energy production.

European Bioplastics supports a European-wide ban on landfilling for plastic products and supports any measures in order to increase recycling and recovery of plastic waste. We also support the complete ban of any additives claiming to make polymers biodegradable, but lacking significant substantiation of actual biodegradability. Such additives hinder organic and mechanical recycling of post-consumer plastics and do not offer any advantage for the environment and waste management. European Bioplastics advocates improving sorting technology in order to exclude these additive-plastics at an early stage of waste collection.

European Bioplastics also supports the call for additional investment in research and innovation to increase the sustainability of plastics, and also for topics including enhanced plastic biodegradation processes, recycling and waste sorting methods.

European Bioplastics would welcome the introduction of measures that minimise the use of plastic bags, such as bans or financial instruments, with exceptions for bioplastics.

Position paper available at:

http://en.european-bioplastics.org/EuBP_PositionPaper_Waste.pdf.

European Bioplastics’ position on shopping bags

European Bioplastics advocates the introduction of measures to minimise the consumption of oil-based plastic shopping bags. The association supports two measures:

  • a ban on plastic shopping bags
  • a tax or charge on plastic shopping bags.

European Bioplastics advocates the following exceptions to offer consumers and retailers an alternative solution:

Plastic shopping bags containing at least 50 percent biobased content should be exempted from the ban or tax in all countries.

Compostable EN13432 compliant plastic shopping bags that contain at least 50 percent biobased content should be exempted from the ban or tax in countries where organic waste is recovered and organically recycled.

Using biomass means bioplastics can decisively contribute to reducing GHG-emission, saving fossil resources and increasing resource efficiency. Biodegradability will contribute to optimising waste streams and increasing the amount of biowaste collected as an additional end-of-life option for certain products.

For more information please consult the European Bioplastics’ Position Paper Shopping bags:

http://en.european-bioplastics.org/EuBP_PositionPaper_Plastic_shopping_bags.pdf

Source: European Bioplastics Newsletter, 2013-10.

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