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A European Plan For Sustainability

Posted on February 9th, 2017 by in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence


Just over a year ago, the European Commission (EC) began implementing a plan to modernize the European economy with a focus on sustainable consumption and production. As its name would suggest, the Circular Economy Action Plan aims to move Europe closer towards a circular economy (which we’ve looked at in this post).

The idea of the circular economy framework is that everything works as a part of a system. By adopting that idea, if we only focus on the smaller, individual parts of the system as we often tend to do, it can be easy to miss the bigger picture. By optimizing one part of a system, we could be doing disproportionate damage to another part.

The circular economy approach forces us to consider all parts of the system, which highlights “waste” in particular. Instead of being an output of the system, in this model waste is just another part of it to be considered.

One of the high priority sectors highlighted in the EC plan is plastics and plastic waste, which I’m going to focus on here. Around this time last year, we looked at the impact of plastic waste on the ocean and marine life and this update follows on from the ideas we discussed there.

The Strategy Roadmap

Roughly one year into their work, the EC has released a roadmap for its Strategy on Plastics in the Circular Economy initiative. This roadmap outlines some of the objectives of the strategy to be proposed and begins to lay out the key areas of focus.

The document notes that global plastic production has seen a twenty-fold increased over the last fifty years. It is expected to almost quadruple again over the next thirty years or so, by which time plastic production could be responsible for 15% of the world’s global annual carbon emissions.

The current approach to plastic production, consumption and disposal is not sustainable on a range of fronts. This roadmap is intended to be the beginnings of a plan for tackling some of those issues.

Key Areas

While there is clearly a lot that could be done, the roadmap highlights the following three areas as needing particular focus:

  • Improving the economics, quality and uptake of plastic recycling and reuse
  • Reduce plastic leakage in the environment
  • Decoupling plastics production from fossil fuels.

The plan is for the EC to develop and propose a clear strategy during 2017 to address these three key areas.

We’ll dig into those in a little more depth over the next few posts. For now though, what do you see as the biggest challenges of our increasing dependence on plastics?



All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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