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EU at Risk of Missing Plastic Recycling Target

October 11, 2020, 02.13 PM

BRUSSELS, – The European Union is at risk of missing its plastic packaging recycling targets that could worsen with an incoming ban on trash exports to poorer nations.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) said on Tuesday that the trash export ban will increase the risk of a plastic waste pile-up in the EU.

Europe produced 29 million tons of post-consumer plastic waste in 2018, more than 60 percent of which was packaging.

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But more plastic waste is incinerated than recycled in Europe, which the auditors attributed to a lack of facilities that could mean it struggles to reach a target plastic packaging recycling rate of 50 percent by 2025 and 55 percent by 2030.

International rules will allow only pre-sorted, uncontaminated recyclable plastics to be shipped to non-OECD countries from 2021, meaning the bloc can send less waste abroad, makes expanding capacity even more urgent, the ECA said.

"There is a huge need for recycling capacities," said ECA member Samo Jereb.

Nearly one-third of all the plastic packaging Europe currently recycles is shipped abroad for recycling.

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The EU and national governments also need to better enforce laws on illegal waste disposal, Jereb said, adding: "If there is a possibility to avoid these rules with illegal actions, and there is no dissuading with appropriate sanctions, of course, crime will flourish."

"Significant efforts are needed in order to deal with plastic waste and pollution and to ensure the overall sustainability of plastics," a European Commission spokeswoman said.

The Commission will propose new rules next year, to help ensure all packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030.

It has also proposed a new tax on member states' plastic waste, to shore up funds for the next EU budget.

Some EU countries have already enacted domestic measures, such as plastic bottle deposit return schemes in Germany and Slovakia.

The EU's environment commissioner has warned that the coronavirus pandemic could increase litter in the form of disposable masks and gloves.


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