STATEMENT BY THE IK INDUSTRIEVEREINIGUNG KUNSTSTOFFVERPACKUNGEN ON THE EU PLASTICS STRATEGY

29 January 2018

STATEMENT BY THE IK INDUSTRIEVEREINIGUNG KUNSTSTOFFVERPACKUNGEN ON THE EU PLASTICS STRATEGY

The subject of the circular economy is becoming increasingly important in the plastic packaging industry in Germany and Europe. In the light of this, the IK Industrievereinigung  Kunststoffverpackungen e. V.explicitly welcomes the European Commission initiative on developing a vision for the future of the plastics industry in Europe. We especially value the fact that in the process the Commission has taken political decision-makers, the entire value creation chain and the consumer into consideration and at the same time highlighted their commitments.

With regard to public discussion of the circular economy, the IK considers it essential that we succeed in anchoring plastic as a reusable material of high value in the minds of all involved parties. With its paper, the Commission explicitly recognises the value of the plastics industry for the European economy and stresses the contribution that plastic as a material can make to tackling the challenges of the future. Plastic packaging in particular protects foods and other products on their way to the consumer and therefore plays a key role in the preservation of resources.

The Commission strategy now being announced lays down essential milestones for guiding the plastics sector in the coming years and sets out relatively concrete targets for the period until 2030. Many of the stated demands are in line with those of the IK position. The call for significant expansion of recyclability also pushes ahead the design for recycling. In Germany, many of these required measures have already been put into place or will become a reality in the near future as part of the implementation of the new packaging legislation.

The strategy paper is of far-reaching significance, and we assume that in the years to come it will become the focal point of a socio-political dialogue on the future of the plastics industry.

The German plastic packaging industry is taking an active role in the Europe-wide dialogue on the future of the plastics industry and is committed to seeing the vision of a new circular economy for the European plastics industry becoming a reality.

With its Plastics Strategy, the EU Commission has clearly addressed and formulated its demands for a circular economy model for plastic packaging and measures to promote this, as well as for the restriction of littering. While on the whole we welcome the Plastics Strategy, certain aspects deserve to be highlighted, others examined critically.

 

IN PARTICULAR, WE SUPPORT ...

1.

… the call for design for recycling

However, recyclability is not the only criterion for sustainability. We support the political objective whereby all plastic packaging on the European market should either by recyclable or reusable by 2030. The industry acknowledges its responsibility and is investing in research, development and production. In Germany, three-quarters of all plastic packaging is already recyclable. Over 50 % of the plastic packaging brought onto the German end-consumer market is recycled.

Recyclability, however, is not always the main, let alone the only criterion when it comes to deciding for or against a material. Rather, it is other sustainability factors, such as the importance of product protection, which come into consideration. Recycling is an important aspect of eco-design, but eco-design is more than just design for recycling. The environmental impact of plastic packaging should not be evaluated merely at the end of its useful life, but throughout its entire use phase.

2.

… the voluntary self-commitment of the plastics industry

As a member of the signatory associations European Plastics Converters (EuPC), Petcore Europe and Polyolefin Circular Economy Platform (PCEP), IK supports the voluntary self-commitment of the plastics industry as an important impulse to implement the Plastics Strategy. The voluntary self-commitment contains concrete quotas for recyclability and multiple use with respect to the milestones 2020, 2030 and 2040. Of particular interest are polyethylene and polypropylene (polyelefin) packagings, constituting the biggest share of around 70% of the European plastics packaging market

3.

… the demand for improved collection and sorting of waste.

Collection and sorting of waste must be expanded and improved throughout Europe. We support the aim of the voluntary self-commitment of the plastics converting industry to specify a recycling rate for polyolefin films used in agriculture in 2020.

5.

… the consistent implementation of existing waste legislation.

We require the consistent implementation of existing laws and are committed to the extension of landfill bans for plastic products already operating in some countries to the rest of Europe.

6.

… the global commitment to combat marine litter.

IK supports the measures mentioned in the Plastics Strategy to reduce the current input of plastic waste into the European seas. The European commission refers in its strategy paper to the input of plastic waste especially due to newly industrialised countries. Indeed, 80 % of marine waste originates in Asia. We therefore support a global approach to this topic and expect European commitment, coupled with the measures implemented here, to serve as an example for implementation in other countries.

7.

… the rejection of superfluous or oversized packaging.

We reject packaging which is superfluous, i.e. which fulfils no actual purpose such as protecting packaged goods during transport or storage, informing the consumer or meeting hygiene requirements, as well as the use of oversized packaging. It is in the interests of the industry itself, from an ecological and economic perspective, to minimise resource consumption.

8.

… the critical examination of so-called “oxo-degradable plastics”.

“Oxo-degradable plastics“ do not meet the requirements of complete biodegradability. Here it is more a question of the breakdown of plastics into small, visible or invisible fragments which exacerbate the current problem concerning the entry of microplastics into waterways and seas. “Oxo-degradable plastics” also have a detrimental effect on recycling.

 

WE ARE CRITICAL OF ...

1.

… the misleading use of the term “single use plastics”.

“Single use plastics” is a misleading term for a multitude of applications. By using the term, the impression is often created single use products is in general a throwaway and therefore to be avoided. Here, however, single use is often a reasonable response to particular product characteristics or hygiene requirements which can frequently only be satisfied by the use of plastics. Take blood bags, disposable contact lenses or packaging for fresh meat, for example. In the Plastics Strategy, the term “single use plastics” is used equally to refer to both “to-go” products as well as specific service packaging. Whereas the packaging employed in industry and commerce is generally only used once, it differs significantly from “to-go” products in terms of useful life and post-use phase. The hitherto unspecific use of the “single use plastics” definition has wrongly led to the conclusion that these plastic products are discarded after a very short use phase and not recycled. Such general assumptions do not apply, however, to most packaging. On the contrary, in the retail sector, the packaging fulfils an important protective function during transport and storage, even before sale to the consumer. Moreover, after use packaging is collected at home or in

the industry and sent for recycling or energic recovery.

 

 

2.

… the misleading use of the term “incineration”.

The differentiation between incineration and energy recovery which has already established itself in political debate is not as yet reflected in the wording of the Plastics Strategy, which talks exclusively of incineration. This usage is misleading because it fails to take into account the generation of energy and also the savings of fossil fuels.

 

 

ADDITIONALLY, WE WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT

 

… that in the discussion about the Plastics Strategy we miss a holistic view of plastic packaging.

While the Plastics Strategy puts the spotlight on packaging at the end of its life cycle, it pays little attention to its use. It is precisely in the course of the use phase that plastic packaging makes a key contribution

to resource efficiency and climate protection. Packaging ensures that products reach the consumer intact. That is essential for our environment, since were goods to be damaged, the resources and energy required for their production would have been wasted. Packaging made of plastic has very special properties, such as offering an oxygen barrier to protect food in particular against spoilage, therefore avoiding the need to throw it away. At the same time, such packaging is very light and hence saves fuel during transport.



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