Tackling the complexity of plastic packaging
RPS recently prepared a national Packaging Recycling Strategy for Repak to assist with the achievement of the European Plan on plastic packaging in the Circular Economy.
The impact plastic packaging is having on our environment and in particular on our oceans is clear for all to see. As our word continues to urbanise and resources deplete this will become an increasingly pressing problem facing governments, business and individuals.
Under the European Commission Plan, Ireland must increase reuse and recycling of plastics from 36% of all plastic packaging waste to 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030. To achieve these new reuse and recycling targets, waste plastic packaging recycling in Ireland will have to increase from 98,238 tonnes to circa 175,824 tonnes by 2030.
The 48-page document contains 35 proposed actions and highlights the significant challenges in meeting the 2030 targets. It acknowledges that the issue is complex and that there are gaps in the information between the EPA Plastics Packaging Waste Data and Repak’s member data, requiring a new and dynamic policy environment.
Key actions recommended in the report are that government would establish a plastic packaging working group and for Repak to review its member’s fee structure so that placing items that are easier to recycle on the market will be incentivised. It recommends that a national communications committee be established so that messaging on how to recycle is consistent and co-ordinated throughout the country.
Significantly, the document proposes a ‘Plastic Pledge’ for Repak member companies, committing producers to reducing their complex packaging, using more recyclable material in their packaging and embracing eco-design when introducing new products. The report also recommends the establishment of an eco-design workshop for new plastic products, as 80% of the sustainability of a plastic product comes from the design.
Repak’s strategy aims to assist Ireland in meeting its EU targets and support the circular economy in a cost-effective manner, while promoting the design and production of plastic products that optimises use and recycling. Repak estimates that it will require €200 million of investment across the public and private sectors to achieve the recycling targets over the period of the strategy.
The two-phase plastics strategy prioritises better design of plastics packaging, increased reuse and recycling, advocates for better consumer education and calls for improved data flows and evidence.
Phase 1 (2018 to 2020) proposes that all stakeholders should work on closing information gaps and adopt a framework for implementable actions. Phase 2 (2021-2030) will see Repak publish a fully-costed revised detailed strategy recommending further measures to meet the targets, based on further evidence based on evidence gather in the initial phase.