The European Investment Bank was clear when speaking at the Plastics Recyclers Annual Meeting: we must consider waste as an asset and not as a liability. We need to maximise the value and utility of materials and minimise their wastage throughout the value chain.
They fully support the circular economy due to the “no waste” generation since all linear flows have been closed in circular loops.The recommendation was to substitute waste with a new term reflecting the resource value inherent in post-consumption discards: Plastic waste no longer exist, it is re-fuse: resource after use!!
Plastics Recyclers Annual Meeting gathers every year around 200 participants from the whole plastics industry value chain. The key speaker this year was Karmenu Vella, the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. He started saying that the situation was calling us for a radical change. “We cannot continue discarding a resource when we can easily reuse it. We must switch to a new system of production. We must go from a mostly “linear” plastic chain to a “circular” one. Plastic which is recycled fully and indeed, multiple times must become the norm and not the exception.”
He has discussed the new European Circular Economy Package to be launched by the end of the year and the great opportunities that the circular economy can bring to Europe. The estimate is that – not just plastic – but waste prevention, eco-design, re‑use, recycling and similar measures could bring net savings of 600 billion euro, or 8% of the annual turnover for businesses in the EU, at the same time reducing the total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2 to 4%. The new package will look at all phases of the product life cycle and hook waste management into the general context and goals of a full circular economy. It will focus on adapting product design, on facilitating the development of markets for recycled materials and on tackling any bottlenecks hindering the circular economy.
It was a good summary of what I have seen in the previous events and the steps for the way forward towards the circular economy:
- evaluate product design and production processes (increase efficiencies, extend product life/repairability, facilitate disassembly/recycling)
- increase supply of recyclables (collection systems, awareness campaigns, economic incentives and EPR)
- increase treatment capacity (apply different technologies)
- increase EU demand for recyclables (green procurement, recycled content, full cost pricing)
- logistics and scale (increase volumes/scale, support regional cooperation, increase feedstock supply security)
- new partnerships (new forms of partnering, more active and closer dialogue between policy makers, regulators and industry)
- new business models and financing systems (pay per use, lease models, asset security and ownership, focus on supply chain and working capital financing)
In summary, another great opportunity to share experience and learn from best practices across Europe to bring to Brazil.