A roadmap for the ecological transition of the European plastics industry

(Picture Plastics Europe)

European plastics manufacturers have agreed a “Plastics Transition” roadmap to accelerate the transition to make plastics circular, drive lifecycle emissions to net zero, and foster the sustainable use of plastics. Plastics Europe and its members share societal concerns about the European plastics system’s contribution to climate change and the challenge of plastics waste, and the need to foster the sustainable use of plastics. Plastics remain irreplaceable for many applications and have a vital role to play in enabling the sustainability transitions and supporting the competitiveness of many sectors in Europe. Our vision is to create a sustainable plastics system that continues to meet consumer and societal demands, whilst supporting the transitions of many downstream industries, and remains a strategic asset for the European economy.

“For the first time our industry is united around a hugely ambitious but realistic plan to redesign the European plastics system - the “Plastics Transition” roadmap. It will be our North Star for the years to come and reflects a profound cultural shift that has taken place in our industry”, Virginia Janssens, Managing Director of Plastics Europe, said.

(Picture Plastics Europe)

The roadmap establishes a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the overall plastics system by 28% by 2030 and towards net-zero by 2050. In parallel, it predicts the gradual substitution of fossil-based plastics, and that circular plastics could meet 25% of European demand in 2030 and 65% by 2050. Cumulated additional investments and operational costs to reach these ambitions are projected to be 235 billion euros. It identifies key levers and enablers, and details immediate, short, and medium-term milestones and actions for plastics manufacturers. Whilst acknowledging that our industry must do more to deliver faster systemic change, the roadmap highlights that circularity intrinsically requires a whole value chain approach and includes recommended actions for policymakers and value chain stakeholders, between now and 2030. The roadmap underlines the need to establish a European waste management system fit for a net-zero emissions and circular economy; develop minimum circular plastic content targets for key plastics applications to create a market pull for circular plastics; and unlock industry investments in, for example, much needed chemical recycling infrastructure. Policymakers must also ensure the European plastics system remains internationally competitive during the transition.

“To be successful, critical action, real collaboration and explicit political will is needed. Decisions taken in the next few years will determine whether and how quickly we can fulfil the ambitions set-out in the roadmap. We urgently need an enabling policy and regulatory framework that stimulates circular markets and industry investments in Europe, rather than hinders the industry’s transition. The window of opportunity to make these accountable decisions is rapidly closing”, Virginia Janssens continued.

(Picture Plastics Europe)

“We are excited about the opportunity the Green Deal provides to create a thriving and competitive European plastics industry that allows us to increase investment and innovation in circularity and decarbonisation. However, to enable the transition we will need measures to safeguard the competitiveness of our industry if we are to prevent industrial activity and investments migrating out of Europe to other regions, and to avoid becoming increasingly dependent on imports of plastics which do not necessarily meet EU sustainability standards”, Marco ten Bruggencate, President of Plastics Europe, added.

“The wider European plastics system is too big, complex, and interconnected for any part of it to successfully deliver a circular and net zero system alone. We need to find better ways of listening, talking and deepening our collaboration. The roadmap should be viewed as an invitation to challenge our thinking and identify the areas where we can join forces and progress faster together. To promote this collaboration Plastics Europe is calling on the European Commission to develop a Clean Transition Dialogue for the European plastics system”, Rob Ingram, Plastics Europe Steering Board Roadmap Task Force Lead, concluded.