What awaits after the plastic law?
by Greenstic on Jul 28, 2021
With the entry into force of the Plastics Act, radical changes took place: since the first of July, caterers, shopkeepers and entrepreneurs have started to adapt to many new laws. Most of them already started preparing for this transitional period long before the law came into force: the EU countries individually, often inaccurately, began the transition to the era after single-use plastics. Although the inaccuracies affect the basic goals of the law, they do not detract from its merits and objectives. The impact of the plastic law can already be seen in quantifiable data, and important issues affecting the packaging industry and sustainable, biodegradable alternatives are finally on the agenda.
In defense of the beaches
The basic purpose of the law is to put an end to the irresponsible use and production of the most common single-use plastic pollutants found on the world's beaches, since cutlery, plates, straws, mixers and plastic packaging materials make up 70% of the trash found on beaches. Thanks to the activities of Greenpeace, the law here also covers plastic bags, as it partly prohibits and partly taxes their circulation. Since the law came into force, you have probably come across the new biodegradable bags made of PLA in the biggest stores.
In addition to getting rid of single-use plastics, the purpose of the law is to increase the awareness of EU citizens, to promote sustainable organic packaging and plastic-free alternatives, and to advance the transition to circular economies throughout the continent: plastic waste must change from its current status of "garbage" to a valuable material. to advance, so that the amount of trash that ends up in the seas and in nature can be significantly reduced.
Light at the end of the tunnel
The entry into force of the law, and its creation in general, is a huge step forward: while previously the value of domestic packaging material consumption increased by 15% per year, now quantifiable data shows that this value has slowly started to decrease: from HUF 288 billion to HUF 268 billion by 2020 decreased, so it was 7% less. And indeed, the law only entered into force this year, but the wait before it came into effect and the aura surrounding plastic packaging materials and single-use plastics had already motivated businesses to use less of these products and to use alternatives, biodegradable start looking for packaging instead.
One of the most common contaminants is omitted
Although the law addresses the plastic pollutant found on most beaches, it does not prohibit or tax the production of PET bottles, of which approx. 1.3 billion are sold worldwide and end up in nature, on beaches, in our waters. Bottle production will only be affected by the EU as follows:
- The goal is to continuously recycle 90% of the plastic bottles in circulation by 2029 (the goal would be 77% by 2025): this goal can be achieved by reviving the deposit fee system.
- PET bottles must be produced from at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025, and at least 30% by 2030.
The European Commission plans to issue additional guidelines to help with the uniform transition, however, there are many differences in the way individual member states interpret or even comply with the provisions of the law. The concept of "putting on the market", for example, is just like this - its interpretation causes problems, and its ambiguity makes it difficult to comply with the law harmoniously.
Due to the differences, the long-term effects are not yet crystal clear, but the packaging technology and recycling industries will also undergo significant transformations. Biodegradable packaging and bioplastics will become more and more common in packaging technology, and according to Plastics Recyclers Europe, the new measures will give recyclers the impetus to continue investing in new technologies. The virus situation, the sudden stoppage of the global economy, and the record low oil prices drastically reduced the income of recyclers because this type of plastic was too expensive compared to virgin plastic. But now, thanks to the law and slowly recovering economies, that may change.
What about the alternatives?
According to the director of Europen (The European Organization for Packaging and the Environment), Francesca Stevens, alternatives to single-use plastics - such as biodegradable packaging, bamboo straws, or PLA cups - must be proven to fit into the European Union's vision of circular economies. So they must have demonstrable environmental benefits. In practice, this means that prevention is the number one consideration when choosing products, followed by reusability, and that starting from the carbon footprint of products, their entire life cycle must be assessed. According to Europen's position, the packaging material of the future should be economically reusable or recyclable, should support the EU's climate change goals, and should continue to serve consumers as a safe, sustainable product.
Plastics Act 2.0
The EU is planning a thorough review of the law in 2027. But the topic and the law will definitely remain on the agenda in the coming years, since with the entry into force of the law, the EU has irrevocably set out on a path, and the member states have finally started working for our common, plastic-free future.