PLASTIC PACKAGING
EU commissioner Sinkevicius calls for a blanket ban / German and EU converters associations question environmental impact
After various campaigns on the use of plastics initiated by the European Commission, particularly concerning packaging, the new EU environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, has now even called for a general ban on plastic packaging. “We definitely want to expand the rules for single-use plastics and are currently investigating different possibilities. An important step would be, for example ... to ban plastic packaging or to make the use of recycled materials mandatory,” Sinkevičius said in a recent interview with German daily newspaper Die Welt. The conversation took place following a lecture by the Lithuanian EU commissioner during the newspaper’s 12th economic summit in early January 2020 in Berlin.

Virginijus Sinkevicius, EU commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries (Photo: European Commission)
TecPart (Frankfurt / Germany; www.tecpart.de), which is part of German plastics converters association GKV (Berlin; www.gkv.de), reacted to the plan from Brussels with indignation. TecPart managing director Michael Weigelt said the EU proposal is “on the wrong track.” Calling plastic packaging itself into question is “unrealistic and endangers human lives,” he said.

“Spoiled food can make you sick or kill you,” added Weigelt, calling attention to the protective functions of plastics. He added that 88m t of food are thrown away in the EU every year. According to Weigelt, many elements of EU’s recently adopted “Green Deal” are worth supporting, but significantly more environmental and climate protection could be achieved if waste collection systems and recycling capacities were implemented in countries with poor infrastructure.

This was also pointed out by the German plastic packaging industry association IK (Bad Homburg; www.kunststoffverpackungen.de). In the assessment of managing director Mara Hancker, however, if plastics are replaced by other materials in packaging, this would generally result in increased energy consumption and significantly higher carbon emissions.

Sinkevičius also announced a new circular economy plan for the EU that will be presented in the coming months. It will focus on plastics, textiles and construction, as well as the environmental and energy sectors, among others. The paper will also contain a general directive on the use of bioplastics.

Various measures have already been initiated and implemented across the EU with the aim of further restricting plastics usage. As of 2021, for example, single-use plastic (SUP) cutlery, plates or straws are to be banned in the EU – see Plasteurope.com of 23.05.2019. Meanwhile, the Italian government has introduced a controversial tax on plastic packaging – see Plasteurope.com of 25.10.2019.

“By the end of the year we will provide a detailed list of all products containing or using microplastics,” Sinkevicius said. “We want to ... start at the very beginning, with rules for the composition of tyres, cosmetics, and other relevant products.” He added that a directive is conceivable in order to achieve these goals.
Disconnect between reality and policy “growing every day”
The European association for plastics converters, EuPC (Brussels / Belgium; www.plasticsconverters.eu), has echoed the German associations’ worries and is concerned about what it perceives as a contradiction between the SUP directive and the EU’s Green Deal. Sinkevičius’ statements regarding banning plastic packaging will certainly mean further damage to our planet in terms of CO2 emissions, said EuPC. The association would also rather see the EU commission focusing on waste management, where there are “very few activities and many conservative actions in a fragmented Europe when it comes to waste management plans.”

Noting that disposable items serve many important functions, the EuPC said the SUP ban by European and national authorities as well as brand owners and retailers has been carried out quickly and superficially, without considering the environmental impact of substitute materials to plastics or whether there is an adequate collection and treatment infrastructure in place. Furthermore, it sees a disconnect between reality and policy “growing every day.”

EuPC managing director Alexandre Dangis hopes there is an opportunity to discuss with EU commissioner Sinkevičius “what it is currently happening in the real economy and the risks of opting out of plastics without a true assessment of the consequences for health, environment and jobs.” EuPC would like to know if the Green Deal will provide funding for what it foresees as a loss of employment in Europe and the closing down of plastics converting plants.
22.01.2020 Plasteurope.com [244326-0]
Published on 22.01.2020
K-Verpackungen: GKV nennt jüngsten EU-Verbotsvorschlag ,,weltfremdGerman version of this article...

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