December 1, 2023

How Europe can reach its plastics recycling targets?

Europe has been working towards more ambitious recycling targets as part of its efforts to promote a circular economy and reduce environmental impact. The European Union (EU) has set targets for member states to achieve higher levels of plastic recycling. These targets are outlined in the Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive and the Circular Economy Action Plan. But still, it is now enough and we need to take every day small steps to change this.

Although current headlines, regulations and targets talk mostly about recycling, it’s time to take a broader approach and not just talk, but act toward a circular economy. Increasing the circularity of plastics and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require a multifaceted approach that involves a range of stakeholders, from businesses and policymakers to consumers and researchers. By working together, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for our planet.

Europe can take a multifaceted approach to reach its plastics recycling targets. Achieving these goals requires coordinated efforts from governments, industries, consumers, and other stakeholders:

  • Creating closed-loop supply chains
  • Investing in new Recycling technologies
  • Encouraging consumer behaviour changes

Investing in new recycling technologies is also important for increasing the circularity of plastics. Traditional recycling technologies are often limited in the types of plastic they can process and the quality of recycled materials they produce. By investing in new technologies that can process a wider range of plastic waste and produce higher-quality recycled materials, we can make recycling more efficient and effective.

Encouraging consumer behavior changes is another important strategy for increasing the circularity of plastics. Consumers can reduce their plastic consumption by using reusable bags, bottles, and containers, and by choosing products with less packaging. Properly disposing of plastic waste by recycling or composting can also help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and oceans. Supporting circular products and services, such as those made from recycled materials or designed for disassembly, can also help drive demand for more sustainable products.

Finally, policies and regulations can play an important role in promoting circularity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they are not the silver bullet. Extended producer responsibility laws can require companies to take responsibility for the disposal of their products and packaging, which can incentivise them to design for circularity. Carbon pricing can also help reduce emissions by putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Unfortunately, currently, it is still the case that using virgin material is cheaper and more convenient than closing the loop and using recycled plastic. Therefore we at KWOTA believe that the only way to get on track is to motivate and incentivise the producers to use more recyclates.

Estonia’s commitment

Estonia, like other European Union member states, is likely to implement measures in line with EU directives and policies related to plastics and packaging waste management. Estonia's commitment to aligning with EU directives on plastics and packaging waste management reflects a broader effort within the EU to transition towards a more sustainable and circular economy.

The plastics industry has long been a major force in global manufacturing, and its outlook for the next two years is positive. In 2023, growth is expected to be modest with an increase of 1.2%, down from the 2% growth reported in 2022. However, 2024 is forecasted to experience strong growth, signalling a potential rebound for this important industry. A key element of this growth is projected to come from the increasing demand for high-performance plastics in various sectors, such as automotive, aerospace, and electronics. This demand will come both from the properties that these materials bring to goods and from manufacturers seeking out new manufacturing bases based on geographic location.

SUP (single use plastic) need to be replaced faster to MUP (multi use plastic)

Transitioning from Single-Use Plastics (SUP) to Multi-Use Plastics (MUP) is a critical step in tackling the environmental impact of plastic waste. Multi-use plastics are designed to be durable and reusable, thereby reducing the generation of waste

KWOTA's Value proposition

KWOTA's value proposition in the global plastic material conversion and recycling market is multifaceted and significant. As emphasized by KWOTA CEO Rain Vääna, the mere transition to recyclable plastics by manufacturers within a decade is insufficient. There's an urgent need to not only shift to recyclable materials but also to substantially increase the volume of plastics being recycled. This is where KWOTA plays a critical role.

KWOTA is instrumental in measuring and quantifying the CO₂ savings achieved through recycling efforts. This measurement is crucial because it provides tangible, quantifiable data on the environmental benefits of recycling. By demonstrating how much CO₂ is saved through their recycling practices, companies can visibly showcase their commitment to sustainability. This isn’t just an environmental measure; it has significant financial implications as well. KWOTA’s system of quantifying CO₂ savings translates directly into financial benefits for manufacturers. This is because companies that can prove substantial CO₂ reductions through their recycling efforts are often viewed more favorably in the marketplace, potentially leading to increased sales and a stronger brand image.Looking ahead, the financial incentives provided by KWOTA are set to become even more substantial. Rain Vääna projects that in the future, recycling materials could confer an advantage of up to 10% of the purchase price for those companies that engage in large-scale recycling operations. This advantage isn't just limited to direct financial gains. It also extends to public procurement, where companies that can demonstrate high levels of recycled content in their products will have a competitive edge. This creates a powerful market-driven incentive for companies to increase their recycling efforts.

In summary, KWOTA's value proposition lies in its ability to bridge the gap between environmental responsibility and economic viability. By providing a measurable and financially rewarding system for recycling, KWOTA is setting a new standard in the global plastic material conversion and recycling market, encouraging companies to increase their recycling rates and adopt sustainable practices more rapidly. This innovative approach is crucial in meeting the ambitious recycling targets set by the EU and will undoubtedly play a key role in shaping the future of the plastics industry.

He added, that the plastic that is recycled does not have to come from the same country (Germany to Germany). It is necessary to find ways to increase the demand - of recycled materials.

Alyona Stadnik

Senior Writer

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