The European plastics industry is currently facing many challenges under the European Green Deal policy objectives

On 11 March 2020, the European Commission presented the new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) as one of the main blocks of the European Green Deal. The CEAP outlines measures aiming at

(i) scaling up the amount of plastic that is recycled;

(ii) establishing mandatory requirements on recycled plastic content in products; and

(iii) ensuring plastic waste reduction for packaging, construction materials and vehicles.

The increasing regulatory burdens outlined in the CEAP have a significant impact on European recyclers, plastic manufactures and in particular on SMEs. Moreover, the new measures are expected to have an impact on the entire supply chain, since they will apply also before the recycling process takes place.

Another challenge for the European plastics industry and importers concerns the restrictions which are expected to be extended also with reference to the unintentional release of plastics, as for example from textiles, tyres and plastic pellets. Consequently, new sectors will be subject to costly regulatory requirements, and will encounter additional difficulties at sourcing alternative materials.

In the context of the European Green Deal, following the adoption of the Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD) on 5 June 2019, a policy framework for bio-based plastics and biodegradable or compostable plastics will be further developed.

In this regard, the plastic industry is currently facing difficulties at adapting to products’ bans and at complying with very high safety standards, in particular in the food sector.

Furthermore, the European Parliament, in its Draft Report of October 2020[1], urged the European Commission to tackle microplastics by adopting a comprehensive phase-out of intentionally added microplastics and by establishing new regulatory measures.

However, a methodology for measuring microplastics and establish a watch list of substances of concern has not been identified yet. This leaves the European plastic industry with many uncertainties, as long as the European institutions and agencies will be able to close the gaps in scientific knowledge on microplastics.

[1] Draft Report on the New Circular Economy Action Plan, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of 12 October 2020, (2020/2077 INI).

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