New report offers solutions to plastic circularity challenges 

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Following the publication of the European Plastics Strategy, a new report by SusChem and its partners has looked at the challenges around plastic circularity and offered various solutions to address them.   

The report entitled Plastics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda in a Circular Economy found that future research is needed in three main areas: circularity in design, recycling and alternative feedstock.  

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While the report acknowledged that the European Commission’s Strategy provided a “great impetus for the plastics industry to increase the circularity of a material that offers extraordinary benefits for society”, it found that in 2016, 27 million tonnes of plastic waste was collected in Europe, with 27% still going to landfill.  

From this, SusChem’s report showed that around 8.4 million tonnes entered recycling facilities and 11.3 million tonnes were treated for energy recovery, adding to the firms’ belief that there is room for improvement.  

The stakeholders behind the report said that they envision the development of “true circularity” and improved resource efficiency as a reality for plastics.  

If achieved, plastics will accelerate their contribution to the European Circular Economy aims of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, higher resource efficiency and job creation.  

To reach an overall increased circularity, the contributors to the report said it is important to: 

  • Design materials with enhanced separation and recycling properties 
  • Design articles/products to encourage reuse  
  • Develop repair solutions that extend the lifetime of plastic articles 
  • Innovate advanced recycling technologies to increase the value retrieved from plastic waste 
  • Incorporate alternative feedstocks in the production of plastics – feedstocks that take waste or by-products from other industries and processes. 

The partners have said that their vision is that the carbon used in and for the production of plastics is recycled in the most resource efficient way taking all cycles into consideration, with the digital transformation of European industry also playing a key role to reach the circular economy goals.  

SusChem chairman Markus Steilemann said: “The plastics industry is committed to increase the resource efficiency of its production processes and to face the challenge of closing the circularity loop. The new Research and Innovation Agenda gives fresh impetus on the strongest way to drive progress along plastics value chains by means of collaboration.” 

Partners of this report include Cefic, PlasticsEurope, European Plastics Converters (EuPC) and the European Composites, Plastics and Polymer Processing Platform (ECP4). 

They will use this report as their main input to EU innovation policy on the circularity of plastics and hope that it will inspire an increase in the number of collaborative projective as well as European and Member States support for a full implementation of the solutions proposed

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