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What the European Commission's Circular Economy plastics strategy means for business

The European Commission’s Circular Economy plastics strategy was launched in January 2018 to protect the planet from plastic waste. But what does it mean for business?

04 April 2018

Northern lights reflected on water

By Stefan Ranstrand, President and Chief Executive Officer, TOMRA Systems ASA

The European Commission has bold ambitions for creating a circular economy. It wants to “protect the planet, defend our citizens and empower our industries” through a Europe-wide strategy on plastics.

Clearly something needs to be done. According to the strategy, Europeans produce 25m tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which less than 30 percent is recycled. One of the results of this is that plastics are responsible for 85 percent of beach litter globally.

To solve this global resource problem, we need to change consumer behavior – and high-profile campaigns such as Sky’s Ocean Rescue have already gone a long way to raising awareness. But it’s also the responsibility of businesses to ensure a sustainable future for plastics products, packaging and recycling.

So, in January 2018 the commission adopted its plan to overcome these issues. I want to take a moment at this milestone to look at the key changes introduced and what they mean for business.

Drive investment and innovation – perhaps the most important change introduced is a focus on transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. Businesses will be able to access guidance and an extra €100m in finance from the commission to help minimize plastic waste at source and develop smarter and more recyclable plastics materials.

Making recycling profitable for business – new rules on packaging are set to improve the recyclability of plastics and increase demand for recycled, rather than virgin, plastic. This is a big step towards the key target of making all EU plastic recyclable by 2030. And it also recognizes that waste management industries need to be profitable to succeed.

Curbing plastic waste – measures will be brought in to improve the recyclability of biodegradable and compostable plastics, for example, by changing labels attached to bottles. The commission will also work to shrink microplastic use in products. Both of these measures mean a fundamental change in many business’s products and processes.

Stop littering at sea – new rules at port will be brought in to reduce sea-based marine litter and ensure waste is returned to land for proper management. For businesses with an interest in ships and ports who follow the rules, this could mean tax relief and other incentives to reduce the administrative burden.

As a global leader in technology for post-use plastics, TOMRA aims to be a frontrunner in the transition towards a new plastics economy. I think as the European Commision sets out this common vision for the industry, a truly circular economy is another step closer.

TOMRA’s vision is to be a leader in the resource revolution. We believe the next revolution begins by rethinking how we obtain, use, reuse and optimize the world’s resources. As a company, we do this by creating smart sorting solutions and technology to improve efficiency in the waste and metal recycling industries. We also work directly with consumers through our world-leading reverse vending machines, with 75,000 installations operating across more than 60 markets.

Better business. Better environment. This is the future that the European Commission is striving towards with its circular economy plastics strategy – a future that TOMRA fully supports and will endeavor to lead the way through our technology and services.