From strategy to practice: Tough issues ahead for plastics

7 December 2018
Stefan Sipka (Policy Analyst)

The EU has acknowledged that the unsustainable production, use, and disposal of plastics is a severe problem that requires urgent policy attention. Plastics lead to COemissions, economic costs (landfilling, fishing and tourism) and continuous accumulation of plastic waste in the environment, especially in marine ecosystems, with implications on human health. In 2018, the EU has adopted a European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, following the earlier Circular Economy package (2015).

Since its adoption, the European Commission has submitted legislative proposals, launched a voluntary campaign, proposed financial instruments, and requested further evaluations as a basis for future policy action on plastics.       

Although considerable work has been done by the EU so far, further efforts are certainly needed. The EU needs to ensure that alternatives to single-use plastics (SUP) provide clear advantages for the environment, the economy and society. The member states must introduce the extended producer responsibility (SUP) regulation in a way that will incentivise eco-design while minimising the administrative and financial burden on industry and consumers. The EU must also set common quality standards for recycled plastics and a mandatory uptake of this material into new products. Lastly, the EU needs to quickly adapt to China's ban on plastic waste imports.

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