„Rethinking Plastics“

10.05.2019

In order to meet the ambitious targets of the circular economy, the Austrian plastics industry recently came up with 10 measures under the title "Rethinking plastics". Austria will thus become a model region for sustainable plastic cycles. The package covers the closing of recycling loops, the further development of waste management, and the expansion of returnable systems. Through the mix of requirements and solution approaches from the industry, plastic cycles can be closed by the year 2040 and recycling quotas of over 95 percent can be reached.

The improper disposal of plastics and the increasing pollution of the world's seas represent an environmental challenge for which further-reaching, more specific measures than just bans on non-returnable plastics and plastic bags are urgently needed, explains Sylvia Hofinger, Director General of the Austrian Association of the Chemical Industry (FCIO). To encourage the sustainable handling of plastic, the Austrian plastics industry has drawn up a comprehensive 10-point package of measures that focuses first and foremost on the furtherance of recycling loops. Recycling begins with the design, and, in this respect, the package of measures also begins at the beginning of the chain. The Austrian companies in the plastics industry are, according to the FCIO, working intensively on increasing the recyclability of their products, for example through the increased use of mono-materials or in the colouring, where increasing use is being made of brighter, transparent colours.

To expand existing collection and sorting systems in Austria, the plastics industry intends, together with the trade and industry associations, to test the use of deposit systems for beverage packs. Even though the population separates its waste in exemplary fashion, it is not enough to attain the recycling targets set, for example, by the EU, says Hofinger. To do this, Austria would have to increase its current plastics recycling rate by nearly 50 percent by 2025. Also, to achieve the collection rate for plastic bottles of 90 percent required by 2029, cross-industry solutions are needed. As a further step towards the sustainable handling of plastics, the package of measures also includes the use of returnable instead of one-way products whenever it is hygienically and ecologically acceptable, for example with beverage cups and refill solutions.

As far as political measures are concerned, the industry wants to make the use of ecological or life cycle assessments compulsory so as not to damage the environment even more in the false belief that switching to a different material would have advantages – as, for example, was the case with the ban on plastic bags, which actually have a better ecological footprint than paper carrier bags. At European and international level, Austria should commit itself more strongly to a Europe-wide landfill ban and to greater political commitment at global level to reduce marine litter, says Hofinger. Austria's technology leadership in the development of recycling technologies and recycling machinery should be further expanded in order to export its know-how to regions of the world that lack waste management concepts. In addition, funding and incentive systems should be used to further develop new technologies such as chemical recycling. In an alliance of all stakeholders – companies, politicians, administration representatives, research institutes, communities and NGOs – recycling rates of over 95 percent for PET bottles could, if the 10-point package of measures is successfully implemented, be achieved by 2025, and with other plastics by 2040.

Sources:

  • Press release FCIO (22.01.2019)
  • Photo: FCIO

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