Plastics, future edition.
The Single-Use Plastics directive initiated by the European Parliament is about to kick in this summer banning disposables, such as plastic straws, cotton buds or balloon grip off the market. Besides bans of daily-use goods, another curious implementation concerns the market of PET and its recycling policies (which is still struggling to even pass the 50% mark in many European countries).
Major part of the SUP directive consists of a range of bans, that aim to eliminate the use disposable plastic straws, ear buds, balloon grips, service ware, stirring rods and containers for take-away food and drinks, and so on. All those products already have numbers of alternatives, so there’s barely a reason to keep on using them in the daily life. Especially when their utilization contravenes the common waste management policy leading to extreme environment pollution. The research conducted by the European Commission revealed, that 80-85% of beach garbage comes from plastic waste, of which nearly 50% is actually plastic disposables and service wear. The remaining 27% come from fishing ware, which is also now being covered by the SUP directive. By this means, a single move by the European Parliament might be able to reduce beach pollution by up to 80%. This alone is already enough to fully justify the intention.
In more global view, the packet of instrument concerning PET plastics, introduced by the directive, looks even more curious. Tens of millions of tons of PET are flowing into the market every year. However, despite relatively easy collection and recycling of used PET, many European countries are still struggling to pass even the 50% recycling mark. Not mentioning the rest of the world.
What could be the solution? The SUP directive is coming up with two key tools. First one implies strict requirements regarding the collection of the material from the market. Running full-scale recycling capacities requires corresponding amounts of returned plastics. The directive is enforcing EU countries to hit the 77% of PET drink containers return by 2025, and 90% by 2029.
The second tool consists in further market development based on re-use of recycled polymers. Thera are certain new requirements meant to help achieve the goal – 25% by 2025 and by 2030 30% minimum R-PET content in every piece of packaging in the market.
Ambitions and expectations
Changes flowing from the Single-Use Plastics directive also encouraged numerous businesses to claim their own voluntary declarations. Big players, whose core interest is built upon vending of drinks packed in PET bottles, jumped straight into changing their policies without waiting for the directive’s ratification. As a result, the market is experiencing a growing wave of individual initiatives in the dimension of use of recycled materials in the brands’ packaging. An entire army of businesses is declaring more investment into enlarging the use R-PET in their product’s packaging. Most ambitious ones are committing themselves to using 100% bottles fully made from recycled material.
New PET collection and recycling policies have already proven themselves fruitful. Even though the experiment is yet far from being over, the results are notable, which makes it obvious, that this approach should be extended to cover other types of polymers. Of course, following regulations, requirements and restrictions regarding material collection and complex extension of the outlet for recycled material a required. Although, given a kickstart, the market will further tough it out itself.