From challenge to potential – new European collaboration to revolutionise plastic use
The world needs to reduce the amount of plastic waste, increase recycling, and replace plastic with renewable materials to reduce the climate impact and the emissions of harmful microplastics. As a step forward, several European regions are joining forces to promote more sustainable development.
Plastic is a useful and versatile material that has many benefits in different sectors and contexts. However, plastic also has a negative impact on the climate and the environment, both during production and as waste. Plastic waste can end up in nature and harm animals and plants, as well as form microplastics that spread in the air, water, and soil. Plastic waste can also end up in waste-to-energy plants where it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil raw materials.
“This week we are in Tampere for the start of a new EU-funded project called PLASTIX. The project wants to revolutionise plastic use and regions, researchers, producers, recycling actors and other important stakeholders are discussing how to collaborate to move forward in terms of solving the plastic challenge and what how to make a real difference”, says Magnus Persson, Project Manager at Paper Province.
The European regions are facing similar plastics challenges: consumption of huge amount of plastics, their recyclability, reusability and replaceability with bio-based raw materials, as well as microplastics are issues that need to be solved.
Today, energy recovery is the most used way to dispose of plastic waste in Europe, followed by recycling. Some 25 per cent of all the generated plastic waste is landfilled. The low share of plastic recycling in the EU means significant economic and environmental losses. For example, it is estimated that 95 per cent of the value of plastic packaging material is lost to the economy after a short first-use cycle, according to the European Parliament.
The stakeholders in PLASTIX want to improve those statistics and are driven by the EU’s vision of a circular economy, where plastic is used in a smart and sustainable way.
“We will learn a lot from each other by sharing good examples and new ideas between the regions. The goal is to make it easier for our regional decision-makers to more effectively support the transition to a circular economy where plastic is used in a sustainable way”, says Gry Lenschow Andersen, also project manager at Paper Province.
Businesses are affected
“To succeed, many efforts are required from several parts of society, not least from the business sector, which has a major role in producing, using, and recycling plastic. That is why we, as a strong business cluster with a focus on renewable raw materials, become an important piece of the puzzle in the project”, says Gry.
The business focus will permeate Paper Province’s related activities during the four years of the project. Not only because the companies are important enablers in the green transition, but also because they are highly affected by the laws and regulations that are linked to plastic, where producer responsibility is tightened every year.
For instance, Sweden has recently banned the addition of microplastics to cosmetic products and the use of single-use items made of plastic such as straws, cutlery, and plates. According to the Swedish Government’s action plan for plastic a number of regulations will be introduced in 2024, for instance: reusable packaging alternatives when selling food and drinks, a ban on disposable cups with more than 15 per cent plastic content, and new design standards for plastic caps and lids.
“It is now important that companies take steps in the right direction to make sure they do not fall behind”, Gry points out. “By engaging in their own operations as well at the whole society’s plastic use, they not only contribute to reduced climate impact and a cleaner environment, but also create competitive advantages, increase the pace of innovation and build a strong brand.”
Less plastic waste, increased recycling and more renewable materials can lead to several positive effects, such as:
- Reduced need for fossil raw materials such as oil and gas
- Less waste on landfill
- Less plastic and microplastics in nature
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production and energy recovery
- Increased circularity and sustainability in the plastic value chain
Read more about the project
PLASTIX runs until 2027 and is mainly funded by Interreg Europe. The project’s collaboration partners are Paper Province (Sweden), Council of Tampere Region (Finland), Province of Fryslân (Netherlands), Faculty of Environmental Protection (Slovenia), Development Agency of Savinja-Šalek Region (Slovenia), Intelligent Factory Lombardy Cluster (Italy), Catalan Agency for Business Competitiveness/ACCIÓ (Spain). Read more >