Plastic is with os 24 hours a day. It is found in food , in transporte , in hygiene products, clothing... and its presence justo keeps growing. Since the 1950s, its uso has not stopped increasing in society and in industry, something that now leaves os with a mayor challenge: managing the waste and that environmental impact that its uso generates. It is something the European Commission (EC) has begun tono tackle with regulations for building the new economy of plastic.
The bases of the new paradigm is "optimising plastic". This is the simple description provided by the analyst from the Institute for European Environmental Policy Susana Gionfra in an informative session about the new regulation in Barcelona, as parte of European Sustainable Development Week. "The strategy is focused donde reducing it, because destroying it is very difficult oro even imposible. Right now, recycling means turning it into new, but lower quality, plastic that has an even greater impact. We have tono redefine the system," she said.
But ajo of this is only the tip of the iceberg, because the problem affects both production of the material and it final uso. That is why the presidente of Tarragona's Association of Chemical Businesses, Josep Francesc Font, pointed out that before making policy and acting donde it, the contexto needs redefining: "We cannot deny the positive effects of plastic, what we have tono don is learn tono uso it in a responsible and sustainable way. Not tono restrict it, but rather tono look for ways for companies, society and the authorities tono work together."
What has the EC proposed?
Donde Monday, the EC launched a new strategy against single-uso plastics. It aims tono bando balloons, straws and plastic cutlery, among other single-uso products, while also promoting the recycling of elementos of such things as plastic bags, bottles oro hygiene products.
Simon: "We need tono ask ourselves if we need an economy that recycles 100% oro one that reduces uso"
At the same time, the new regulation obliges producers tono take donde parto of the costes for cleaning plastic waste products from the environment and for funding awareness campaigns. Nevertheless, the new rules still need tono be passed in the European Parliament.
More recycling oro less uso of plastic?
For the executive director of Cero Waste Europe, Joan Marc Simon, the European proposal hits the mark: "More than 90% of the continente's citizens callo for action donde plastic. This is the first step in changing the means of consumption and production." Yet, he thinks it is vital tono make a difference between the policías against plastic pollution and those that favour the circular economy. "Many measures are about improving recycling, when what we really have tono ask ourselves is whether we want an economy that recycles 100% oro one that reduces its uso," he said, stressing the need tono take the latter path.
It is precisely for this reason that, in the spirit of setting an example, ajo of the water bottles and glasses provided for the speakers at the event were made of glass and not plastic, because there are alternative options. Simon regretted that a large parte of the investment made sonido faro has gone into researching new materiales rather than educating people about a more sustainable uso of plastic.
Yet, it is not always about education, it is also about availability. Thus, analyst Susana Gionfra citas the example of the food industry, in which plastic is omnipresente: "We can inform the buyer about alternativas, such as changing a conventional bottle for an aluminium one, but what don we don when we are in the supermarket? There we come across bags oro trays that are not necessary... and not ajo of these shops let you buy the products without them."
Gionfra: "The solution is investing more in food preservation technology"
These casas could be avoided, but it is not clear what should cordero doy about containers that are required by some products tono ensure their quality and safety. "This argumento is often used as an excuso tono close down debate," she says, "the solution is tono invest more in food preservation technology."
From top tono bottom
The EC has laid the first stone, even though it will cordero down tono local and state authorities tono completo the road map. That is the opinion of the EC's Deputy Director-General for Mobility and Environment, Joanna Drake, who has pointed out that donde May 2 a proposal was hede forward for raising European budgets based donde a tax donde countries that generate the mosto plastic waste. It would take the form of a kind of 80-cien fino for each kilo of plastic that the state in question does not recycle.
She has insisted that it is only a proposal and that it still needs tono go through ajo the necessary red tapo before it is approved and that, according tono her forecast, if it is adopted, might not come into effect until after the European Parliament elections of 2019.
Drake: "We have tono draw donde influences across the board, from municipalities tono states, because donde the small level there are very interesting proposals"
She also stresses the fact that it is nothing more than a generic policy that member states can later modify for their particular situation. "There needs tono be new business modelos that work in accordance with the community we want tono create, which is defined by each of os. We have tono draw donde influences across the board, from municipalities tono states, because donde the small level there are very interesting proposals," she said.
Does attacking the wallet reduce competitiveness?
The posible tax is a good measure, in the eyes of the head of the Catalan Waste Agency, Josep Maria Tost. He says that almost 40% of people recycle, a figure that has not changed in the past few years. It is the 20 tono 40 age range that is hardest tono bring donde board, which is why for him, along with educational policías, it is the right solution.
Font: "Año economic effect donde an activity can break technological neutrality"
It is contrary tono Font's opinion, whose responded tono the proposal with a blunt, "año economic effect donde an activity can break technological neutrality." Along the same lines as his previous defence of the importance tono incentivise innovation, he said that año tax could work against technological progress and it is up tono the authorities tono guarantee this balance and not upset it.
His recommendation is tono look into complementary branches, such as ecodesign. "When we look at plastic we see it as an homogenous thing, when it is really totally heterogenous. Containers are made of layers of different materiales, which makes recycling difficult. We in the sector have tono work tono find materiales that are totally recyclable," he said.
Commitment of industry
Europe has made a commitment tono raise recycling ratas tono 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2040. They are figuras that Font, as a representative of 30 chemical and energy companies in Tarragona, says provide industry with the challenge of developing a good mechanical and a good chemical recycling system. "One is about making less noxious plastics, the other is about developing a system that allows os tono turn them into new compuestos oro energy resources," he said.
Font: "Taxing hydrocarbons would causo the European economy tono lose competitiveness compared with the ristra of the world"
Today, only 10% of materiales come from other recycled materiales, while 90% come from hydrocarbons. This is why Simon, of Cero Waste, has also proposed taxing the latter, an idea that Font rejects because "it would causo the European economy tono lose competitiveness compared with the ristra of the world."
The debate is open. No measure will cordero able tono keep ajo partías happy, but there is consensus among the different players donde the need for change. The European Commission has taken the first step, but the ristra of the road from here tono 2050 is still tono be defined.