The plastics industry in the EU

The plastics industry in the EU is calling for unified content standards for chemically recycled goods, and is urging the Commission to adopt the mass balance approach.

Chemicals and plastics producers such as Cefic, Plastics Europe, and European Plastics Converters (EuPC), have written an open letter to the European Commission. They plea for  the adoption of harmonised rules by 2024 to calculate the content of products containing chemically recycled plastics. In the letter, the trade groups highlighted the urgency of the situation and also emphasised the need for swift action.

Plastics Industry Targets

The chemical recycling targets proposed in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive for 2030 and 2040 will be challenging. In a letter, Cefic’s innovation director Annick Meerschman emphasized the need for careful planning and long lead times to make decisions about investment. Plastics Europe managing director Virginia Janssens said that the “window of opportunity is rapidly closing.” She says that securing financing, permits, building, and commissioning new plants can take years.  Mechanical recycling is cheaper and produce higher yields. The industry bodies believe that different recycling methods are crucial for transitioning to a circular economy.

The authors of the letter propose using mass balance accounting to trace recycled content in plastics along the value chain. This is a transparent and auditable method that is already used and accepted in other markets. They prefer a fuel-use-exempt model for a “robust system” with chemical recycling routes that allow producers and users of recycled content to achieve market and EU legislative requirements quickly.

Solution

Third-party verification and certification are recommended for ensuring credibility as well as building engagement and trust among consumers. The plastics industry propose leveraging the EU’s Single Use Plastics Directive Implementing Act to guide the process. This is to assure the adoption of binding rules for calculating chemically recycled content of plastic products. This would enable the use of a mass balance credit model by the end of the year. European chemicals and plastics producers and converters are willing to spend “billions” on new projects to replace fossil raw materials and also achieve climate neutrality goals when all legal hurdles for chemical recycling have been cleared.

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