Since December 2015 – and the publication of the European Commission’s long awaited Circular Economy Package – much time and resources have been spent on finding out how new regulations could support a smooth transition to a circular economic model.
In Brussels the transition relies on two pillars:
• A revision of the existing waste regulatory framework
• The implementation of an extensive action plan covering all aspect of our economy; from product design to food waste, from consumer information to water reuse.
Interestingly, the initiative has been presented as an economic plan by the European Commission which has repeatedly invited industry to share their views.
For decades, ISOPA members and the entire polyurethane value chain have developed resource-efficient solutions benefiting the environment and a myriad of sectors that are already playing a key role. Construction, transport or appliances… They are all needed to support Europe’s transition to a circular economy. More innovation will come, as it always does. The question remains, however: Will innovation come from Europe? ISOPA’s views are that a sensible policy framework is part of the solution and should secure Europe’s competitiveness.
We believe five principles should guide European policymakers as they are paving the way towards a new economic model:
Landfilling of plastics is obsolete – Plastic is a too valuable resource to be wasted. It is therefore critical that the European Union foresees a progressive ban of landfilling of plastic so it can properly be treated and remain in the economic loop.
Recycling must be sustainable – Recycling is obviously one of the preferred waste management solutions. It should, however, be noted that in some cases, recycling is technically impossible or unsustainable given environmental, safety and financial costs. It is therefore critical that alternative waste management options are not discriminated against.
Waste to energy is needed – energy recovery is one of these alternative options that regulation should support when recycling of plastics appears to be unsustainable. It also goes without saying that waste-to-energy helps increase Europe’s energy independence.
Feedstock recycling needs to be supported – feedstock recycling constitutes another attractive option for plastics that are difficult to mechanically recycle. Further innovation and funding are therefore needed in order to turn feedstock recycling into an economically viable option and create new opportunities to close the carbon loop.
Extended responsibility schemes for producers must be flexible. As waste management differs from one waste stream to the next, ISOPA encourages policymakers to allow for a modulation of EPR fees based on the real end-of-life costs. Priority of actions should depend on the result of life cycle assessments in order to identify which waste management option is the next for each product category.