The report commissioned by European manufacturers to help them respond to the severity of the climate crisis and the challenge of waste creating seas of plastic, will be the roadmap for the coming years.
Plastics Europe, the voice of plastics producers in Europe, presents the new independent report "ReShaping Plastics: Pathways to a Circular, Climate Neutral Plastics System in Europe". The aim of the study was to critically analyse the progress made to date and assess the potential of different options that could be activated to help in the transition towards the European Union's circularity and net zero carbon emission targets for 2050.
The report reveals that the current European plastics system has low levels of resource efficiency, as it only resource efficiency, with only 14% of the waste generated being recycled, as well as high rates of waste pollution and GHG emissions. To improve this situation they propose different roadmaps.
They stress that circularity is key to reducing emissions in a short- and medium-term system. In addition, they point out that access to sufficient renewable and low-carbon energy sources is essential to reduce plastic waste and GHG emissions.
To accelerate systemic change, significant investments will be required in the short and long term, either by public or private investors.
Among other things, the roadmaps for achieving zero emissions stand out:
- Change the source of carbon for production: replace the current way of producing plastic with bio-based or captured carbon sources.
- Start using low-carbon hydrogen.
- Electrify processes.
- Capture carbon emissions for reuse.
In addition, the report provides numerical data on the current situation:
- 24.5 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated in 2020.
- Only 14% was recycled, i.e. 3.5 million tonnes.
- Currently, 50% of plastic waste is incinerated.
- We emit 95 million tonnes of CO2, one third of which is due to incineration.
- 8-15 million tonnes of plastic have not been accounted for in the data due to lack of traceability.
To improve this situation they have created a Circular Scenario that would reduce plastic waste by 80% compared to the current picture of the sector:
- Eliminate unnecessary packaging at source by redesigning the product to reduce 8% of the packaging waste.
- Reduce plastic in packaging by one third by 2050.
- Reduce the stock of vehicles and the demand for their corresponding automotive plastics to 22% through shared transport services by 2050.
- Replace plastic packaging with paper and other biodegradable alternatives to reduce plastic waste to 8% by 2050.
- Design with recycling in mind.
- Expand collection capacity for recycling.
- Increase mechanical recycling capacity by 1.8x to produce 9.8 million tonnes of recyclates by 2050.
- Progress in chemical recycling for hard-to-recycle plastics to produce 7.3 million tonnes of secondary raw material by 2050.
Finally, it proposes targets for 2050:
- 60% reduction in waste incinerated by 2020-2050.
- 70% less virgin plastic produced by fossil fuels.
- Avoid 1.6 gigatonnes of cumulative CO2 emissions between 2020-2050.
- Create 160,000 jobs related to circularity.
- 1 in 4 euros to be spent on innovative low-carbon technology and circular energy business models.