Every inhabitant of the EU uses an average of 198 plastic bags a year, one bag per family per day, with differences between member countries, from 4 bags per person per year in Denmark and Finland to 466 in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia. This situation raises concerns among the EU and Plastics Europe, an association gathering the plastics sector in the EU.
The EU is willing to take deterrent measures they deem appropriate to reduce the use of plastic bags, such as taxing or banning the use of the thinnest ones or setting national reduction targets.
Environmental overview of plastic
Many EU countries have already introduced charges on the use of disposable plastic bags, such as paying for them every time they are used with their use having experienced dramatic reductions.
Most of the nearly 100,000 million bags delivered each year by supermarkets and shops in general are only used once over a twenty minutes period, while they take hundreds of years to degrade. Each year, 8.000 million bags reach the sea and end up being ingested by animals, killing whales, seals and gulls, as well as many varieties of endangered turtles. Thus, the EU is confident that this plan will help achieve a change in attitude towards consumption and waste disposal.
Conference “Breaking myths”
Meanwhile, PlasticsEurope, the European association of plastics producers, and ITENE , Technological Institute of packaging , transport and logistics, have organized a conference to discuss and achieve the goal that by 2020 no plastic be wasted in landfills. And in line with the EU position, they demand a proper legislative framework to increase recycling and recovery levels to 100%.
Thus, industry and key stakeholders are committed to a much more efficient use of resources through the promotion of: prevention, mechanical recycling, energy recovery and recycling of alternative fuels.
For PlasticsEurope, the starting point of any strategy must be prevention , focus of the European Union and the Member States’ waste policies for the period 2010-2014. Thus, responsible consumption and a more rational use of all resources are essential, while promoting quality mechanical recycling, fostering the expansion of collection schemes that include 100% post-consumer waste.
PlasticsEurope proposes the option of energy recovery. In this way the great calorific value of plastic, similar to other common fuels such as natural gas or even superior to the coal is harnessed. As an example, if Europe used the full potential of its waste stream, it could generate electricity to supply power to 17 million homes and heating to 24 million.
Another way to take advantage of the waste is their use as fuel, called Refuse Derived Fuels (RDFs). In Spain some 2.4 million tons of this type of alternative fuel is used. If we chose to stop waste land filling, with heat power, up to 4 million tons of RDFs could be produced, which would mean an increase of 66 %. The use of such amount of RDFs would be equivalent to 5% of fossil fuels used by industry in general, which would decrease Spain’s current dependence on fuel imports.