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The plastics crisis requires fundamental institutional change

Issuing time:2020-07-24 15:04

The European Academy of Sciences (EASAC) has warned that current efforts to tackle the plastics crisis are ineffective and misleading.By 11 March 2020, policymakers and industry must resolve conflicts across the entire system, from production to obsolescence."Reducing the leakage of millions of plastic wastes into Marine, terrestrial and freshwater environments is incompatible with the continued growth of plastic use.

"EA SAC's latest report, plastic Packaging in the Circular Economy," shows that fundamental and systemic reforms are needed across the value chain to slow and reverse damage to the environment, biodiversity and ultimately human health.

Plastic is everywhere.Since 1960, global plastic production has risen from 1.5 million tons a year to nearly 400 million tons."Macroplastics and microplastics are found on land, in the ocean, and even in the air.For many species, plastics are deadly through entanglement and ingestion, while microplastics are spread throughout the food chain."The 21st century may actually be remembered in human history as the plastic Age," Says NORTON.

"We do not doubt the important role and benefits of plastics in our lifestyle.But our report's warning is not a dystopia for environmental activists.This is science, NORTON continues.The report makes it clear that voluntary and market mechanisms do not solve this problem.

Martin NORTON: "European lawmakers should adopt rules and incentives to accelerate the development of an economy that recycles plastic waste.We have to use plastic products and packaging, which greatly improve our recycling, the most important is to ensure that no leakage of waste into the environment, "the academy's report clearly shows that rely on growth is not an option, especially because many so-called" biology "material is not reasonable, because the resources or environmental reasons."They may mislead consumers and create the illusion of sustainability, potentially prolonging today's abandonment mentality," says NORTON.

This is the first time leading scientists from the national academies of Sciences in 28 European countries have come together to delve into the entire plastic value chain.Based on their findings, the EA SAC scientists made seven recommendations to EU policymakers on how to reform the system.

Seven recommendations to European lawmakers

1. The export of plastic waste is prohibited

Today, most of the EU's plastic waste is not recycled in Europe.Large quantities of contaminated and hard-to-recycle plastic are shipped out of Europe, often ending up in illegal factories and/or leaking into the local environment and eventually into the ocean."Europe should deal with its own waste, rather than shifting it to other countries with less capacity," said Dr Anne Mi Ek Ver RIPS of the Dutch Institute. "From an environmental and ethical point of view, it is better to deal with Plastic waste in Europe, even if we have to incinerate some of it in plants from waste to energy."

2. Adopt the target of zero plastic waste landfill to minimize consumption and one-way use.

EA SAC urged the European Commission to make the adoption of zero plastic waste landfills a priority in line with the development of the eu's plastic recycling economy.

The scientists also suggest reducing consumption as an explicit goal of the forthcoming "plastic in the Circular economy" package."An important policy measure to reduce one-way use is to extend the direct recycling programme to a wider range of containers and disposable beverages," explained Ver RIPS.

3. Extended producer responsibility

EA SAC also asked policymakers to ensure that the polluter pays principle applied to plastic manufacturers and retailers."Europe must impose ambitious EPR charges on large quantities of plastic packaging."The system should include tax breaks related to recycled plastics in order to force people to choose products that can be recycled," says Prof Gaetano Noguera of the Italian Academy of Sciences.

Ecoregulation costs also take into account product design criteria such as toxicity, durability, reusability, repairability and recyclability/composting related to their final use and environmental impact.

4. End the misrepresentation of biological alternatives

So far, scientists have found that the potential of biodegradable plastics is very limited.Anne-christine Alberts Son, of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, said: "The ideal goal of natural decomposition of plastics in the environment remains elusive because most applications of plastics require durability.It is a basic premise that materials that can be degraded in the environment should not be degraded during their shelf life.Only a few products can meet biodegradation tests in the Marine environment, and even those products can remain intact for months, during which the risk of entanglement and ingestion remains.Moreover, "living things" are not the same as reducing environmental impacts, since alternative feedstocks of fossil fuels can be associated with high greenhouse gas emissions, competing for food with land, or driving land-use change."Consumers are often misled, including the diversity of the current labelling system," he said.The ideal goal of natural decomposition in the environment remains elusive because most applications of plastics require durability.Be able to be in the environment

It is a basic premise that degraded materials should not be degraded during the shelf life.Only a few products can meet biodegradation tests in the Marine environment, and even those products can remain intact for months, during which the risk of entanglement and ingestion remains.Moreover, "living things" are not the same as reducing environmental impacts, since alternative feedstocks of fossil fuels can be associated with high greenhouse gas emissions, competing for food with land, or driving land-use change."Consumers are often misled, including the diversity of the current labelling system," he said."We need a mandatory and uniform European labelling scheme that has to do with practical rather than theoretical recyclability," explains Dr Attila Varga of the Austin Academy of Sciences.

5. Advanced recycling and post-treatment technologies

Effective recycling of many waste streams is difficult and requires the development of a range of options to extract value from the current low or negative value of mixed plastic waste.If exports from the EU and landfills are to be stopped, integrated recycling systems that handle all plastic waste must be developed, as SUGGESTED by EA SAC.

NORTON concludes: "We need a clear level of recycling: closed-loop recycling, the recycling used in the same product represented by recycling PET bottles, and energy recycling should be the last option after better alternatives such as open-loop recycling and molecular recycling used in other products."

6. Limit additives and resins to improve recyclability

So far, many manufacturers and processors in the plastics industry have not shown enough interest in what happens when their products are used.The report found that reducing the use of sometimes toxic additives and simplifying the amount of polymers that can be used for specific purposes, such as large quantities of recyclable polymers such as PET and PE, would greatly contribute to the technical and economic viability of recycling.Recent technological advances have made it possible to replace even multiple layers of packaging made of different materials (and therefore difficult to recycle) with multiple layers of packaging made of the same resin, making it recyclable.

7. Price provisions and quotas for recovered contents

Pure plastic raw materials are too cheap, and the cost of plastic does not include environmental and social costs, from the initial oil or gas to littering on land or at sea.The exclusion of environmental costs is a market failure and a fundamental barrier to increased demand for recycled materials.According to the report, this is the basis for measures being discussed in some member states and Europe, which would either impose a plastic tax or require minimum recycling content.Prices are also the most important signal that consumers are changing their behaviour quickly, according to EA SAC."However, there are clear limits to how effective any measure can be, depending on individual consumer decisions.That is why we believe policymakers must move quickly to a coherent regulatory and financial framework, Varga said.