The processing of the Draft Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils, which is being debated these days in Congress, represents a huge opportunity for Spain to take an important step in favor of sustainability, environmental protection and the circular economy. From CIDEC, the Center for Innovation and Development of the Circular Economy, we believe that this happens, in general, to understand plastic as a resource, and not as waste. For this reason, we believe that it is necessary to go much further than what the Bill currently establishes in promoting a Spanish market for r-PET or recycled plastic.
Plastics are part of our lives in many ways, from the time we get up until we go to bed: the mobile phone we use, much of the clothes we wear, or even the packaging of many of the products we eat. Its use has been growing, as it is a versatile, light, resistant, safe and recyclable material. No material combines these characteristics. Therefore, the problem is not plastic. It is not about ending it, but about addressing what use we give it and how we manage waste once it ceases to be functional, in order to give it a new life. That is the true virtue of a circular economic model.
For this new framework to be successful, and for us to reduce the production of virgin plastic, r-PET (the only recycled and recyclable plastic, suitable for food use), must play a key role. We know the properties that make r-PET an ally of the ecological transition thanks to the study “R-PET, the best solution to guarantee the circularity of the containers”, which we carry out from CIDEC in collaboration with Vertidos Cero, CIRCE, ICTA, AIMPLAS, AINIA, IDAEA-CSIC and AFI. The report found that r-PET is the most sustainable and efficient material, since its domestic production has a lower carbon footprint associated with its life cycle compared to imported products.
Therefore, r-PET, in addition to complying with the highest standards to be in contact with food and beverages in a safe way, is the most sustainable material and that best guarantees the reduction of CO2 emissions. Being 100% recyclable and recycled, it favors, in turn, the reduction of single-use plastics in our food industry. In addition, the environmental impacts associated with its production and transport are the most eco-efficient of all the materials studied. To stop climate change we must bet on the best option in each product taking into account its complete life cycle. Systematically replacing plastics with other materials can aggravate the problem of CO2 emissions, and does not solve the problem of waste in the environment.
With this in mind, in June I had the opportunity to explain to the deputies in charge of processing the Draft Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils in Congress why this much-needed law risks being ineffective: unfortunately, the market Spanish r-PET will not be able to cope with the growing demand for recycled plastic, and the objectives set by the text itself regarding the circularity of packaging will not be able to be met as it is currently written.
Our report found that, at present, the Spanish market is not prepared for the increase in demand for recycled plastic. In other words, once its properties are recognized, the report reveals that the production capacity of r-PET for food use is significantly lower than its demand, which is also increasing by leaps and bounds. With the latest data in hand, just to meet European targets (which aim to achieve 25% recycled plastic in bottles by 2025), about 54 kt per year of r-PET will be needed, when the installed capacity for the production of r-PET for food use in 2019 did not exceed 35 kt. While it is true that work is being done to increase this capacity, it is still insufficient to meet demand.
In addition, the Waste Law runs parallel to the Royal Decree on Containers and Container Waste, which was recently submitted to public information by the government, and which is also not in line with promoting the promotion of r-PET. The plastic reduction targets, including r-PET, are extremely restrictive and will not contribute to a purely circular production model: they perceive plastic as waste and not as a resource, something that goes against the regulatory plans of the European Commission in its Action Plan for the Circular Economy. This regulation, which is necessary, establishes objectives that are difficult to achieve and with high economic and social costs.
Undoubtedly, one of the great challenges we face as a country is to reduce the negative impact of waste on the health of the planet and people, ending the consumption of single-use plastic waste. Our study recognizes that plastic, in the form of r-PET, is a sustainable material and a catalyst for well-being, so it is essential that the future Waste Law guarantees that plastic containers destined for food use have many lives. Only that will allow us to avoid continuing to produce tons of virgin plastic each year, when the most sustainable and efficient thing would be to take advantage of and recycle the one we already have.
However, in order for our country to fully close the circle, the Draft Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils must promote a secondary market for quality r-PET in Spain, which ensures our packaging industry a sufficient amount of recycled and recyclable material to meet the objectives set. We’re still on time. Otherwise, it will be a missed opportunity.
Source: ElDiario.es – ElDiario.es by www.eldiario.es.
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