Economic case needed for plastic waste policies

Improving the management of plastics waste can provide opportunities for economic growth and help the environment, says the Government, but it would want to see a clear economic case before introducing any new legislation or policy instruments.

In its response to the European Commission’s (EC) Green Paper on plastics waste, it says the use of environmental objectives rather than targets gives greater flexibility to member states to implement environmental measures that support economic growth. Any new targets proposed should have clear and robust justification and adhere to the principles of smarter regulation, it says.

While recognising the value and positive role plastics play in technological innovation and the reduction of food and product waste, any new policies need to take into account the infrastructure, technological requirements and applications of specific polymer types, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution. It believes the current EU legislation framework and domestic policy instruments are sufficient to realise any opportunities.

Too much plastics still ending up in landfill or energy recovery

coloured plastic bottle topsPhoto: Arvind Balaraman

It is concerned with the large amount of plastics waste that still ends up in landfill or energy recovery, as the waste hierarchy should be followed, and it wishes to see an efficient, transparent and fair market for plastics recycling. It believes a greater focus on the quality of recyclates from different sectors within the supply chain will help to promote high quality recycling and maximise the economic benefits of reprocessing the material.

 Measures which reduce collection, sorting and reprocessing costs should enhance competitiveness and incentives to promote technology dealing with more difficult plastics streams, such as films, pots, tubs and trays, should be encouraged. Systems to promote reuse and recovery could include manufacturers designing products so they can be repaired and upgraded, rather than thrown away, take-back schemes could be introduced.

 Within its response it also discusses deposit and return systems, labelling schemes and reducing the number of different polymer types. If fewer grades of plastics were used, recycling may be easier and more profitable, it argues.

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