In his keynote speech, Potocnik pointed out that plastic has a future as the world moves away from a throw-away society towards a more circular economy. “It can be part of the solution, not just part of the problem,” he said. The European environment commissioner also called on reducing landfill rates and switching from energy recovery towards increased recycling. “Plastic recycling rates are far too low across Europe”, he added, pointing out that the rate averages 24%. Potocnik also called on adopting a holistic view on all phases of a product’s life: “That is where we must rely on industry’s support to come up with plastic products that are repairable, updatable, dismantable and durable.”
Janez Potocnik (Photo: PlasticsEurope)
His statements on the need for making the most out of plastics waste were echoed in the presentation given by Michel Loubry, regional director West Region at PlasticsEurope, one of whose slides stated that “plastics are too valuable to be wasted!” Loubry also delved a bit deeper into the causes of environmental pollution, identifying three main reasons: inefficient waste collection systems, improper use of landfills as well as human behaviour. He also pointed out what he called the “plastics paradox”: the more plastics we use, the better for the environment.
Both Potocnik and Loubry also addressed the trend towards bio-based plastics, although both pointed out that it remains a niche application to date. The EU commissioner emphasised that there are still a range of problems linked to bioplastics, including the difficulty of integrating them into existing waste and recycling schemes, the difficulty of establishing the specific conditions needed for them to degrade as well as the competition in which bioplastics made of starch derived from maize, rice or potatoes stand with food production.
Michel Loubry’s presentation on “A sustainable world in 2030? Are plastics the problem or part of the solution?” as a PDF document
European Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik’s speech as a PDF document