Karmenu Vella on circular economy: ‘Nothing to gain from waiting’

(EurActiv, 30 Apr 2019) Circular economy wrangling has kept the EU busy for the last few years, from withdrawn policies to far-reaching recycling strategies. The EU’s outgoing environment boss, Karmenu Vella, insists that industry is still critical to waste-reducing efforts and that “there is nothing to gain from waiting”.

Karmenu Vella is the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. He answered questions by EURACTIV’s Sam Morgan.

The EU plastics strategy was hailed as a significant step in trying to curb the amount of waste we produce. Are you convinced that the industry-led approach is still the most effective one?

Absolutely, the role of industry is critical here, because it’s up to them to make it happen. When you look at manufacturing today, only about 6% of European demand from plastics is made up of recycled plastics. The Plastics Strategy sets the objective of achieving at least 10 million tons of recycled plastics into new products on the EU market by 2025. The Single Use Plastic legislation will give the market a push with a mandatory recycled content target for bottles but businesses are the ones who will make that happen.

And we need action at all stages of the plastics cycle, from design and production to recycling and boosting the market for recycled plastic. We need a change in all these fields, from renewable energy and feedstock to product design, new business models and reverse logistics, and improved technologies for recycling. The plastics industry will have to play a significant role in all of that.

That said, we are addressing citizens as well, with better information campaigns and clearer product labelling, focusing on the impact of items like cotton buds, carrier bags and coffee cups, highlighting more sustainable alternatives.

While people are generally well aware of the environmental impact of single-use plastics, often they still need to act on the problem. That’s why we have launched the #ReadyToChange campaign, which helps people resist the lure of single-use plastics, pointing out the downsides and helping them find more sustainable alternatives.

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EurActiv, 30 Apr 2019: Karmenu Vella on circular economy: ‘Nothing to gain from waiting’