Plastic waste as a challenge for sustainable development and circularity in the European Union

Bernadeta Baran

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/EiP.2020.001

Abstract


Motivation: Plastics are valuable materials covering a wide range of applications in everyday life and have the potential to be recycled many times while retaining their value and functional properties. However, the scale of the problem associated with improper management of plastic waste in the EU is enormous, which entails economic costs (the potential associated with the recycling of plastic waste remains largely unexploited) and irreversible losses for the environment. Solving the problems of plastic waste becomes the strategic goal of the EU, which takes action to support transition towards a circular economy and adopts first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics. These issues are current and important.

Aim: The aim of the article is to assess the previous efficiency of plastic waste management in the EU countries which, so far, results from the implementation of national policies. The Strategy for Plastic waste will be also discussed as a response to contemporary challenges and as an element of achieving the goals of sustainable development and circular economy.

Results: In the last years, the efficiency of plastic waste management have improved but still a huge share of plastic is wasted. The challenge is to increase recycling rates and to change unfavorable structure of plastic waste reuse: at this time energy recovery rate (41.6%) is still higher than the recycling rate (31.1%), and the recycling rate only slightly exceeds the landfill rate (27.3%). The second problem concerns single-use plastic packaging which accounts for about 60.0% of the plastic waste in the EU. Adopting first ever European plastics strategy, the EU addresses environmental problems and solutions to help the transition to a CE. The goals are ambitious but realistic to meet in the coming years. They can bring a real change but at the same time this is just the beginning of the process.

Keywords


plastics; circular economy; sustainable development

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