In line with the measures foreseen in the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), the European Commission (EC) has launched a public consultation on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics.
The aim of this consultation is to foster the regulations on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics and enhance investment in the sustainable technologies related to them.
The consultation maps three policy areas in this field:
Policy area 1: The sustainability of the biological feedstock used to produce biobased plastics
Using biological feedstock instead of feedstock made from fossil fuels can help reduce the environmental impacts of plastics across the whole life-cycle. However, the full life-cycle environmental impacts need to be considered – including land-use changes, biodiversity and climate impacts, and littering. At present, no EU sustainability criteria apply to these plastics, while consumers expect them to be fully sustainable.
Policy area 2: The effective biodegradation of biodegradable and compostable plastics and their role in a circular economy
These plastics can only deliver environmental benefits if their biodegradation can be verified by means of standards. Whilst European standards exist for some media such as industrial composting, no European standards exist for biodegradable plastics in other conditions, such as the marine environment. In addition, the circular economy and ‘waste hierarchy’ principles suggest only using these plastics for limited, specific purposes for which reducing, reusing and recycling are not feasible or desirable.
Policy area 3: Widespread confusion
Although these plastics have many similarities, they also have many differences. Consumers and users of these plastics do not currently have access to clear and trustworthy information when buying or disposing of these plastics. Labelling can only help when it is clear and complete. Furthermore, if these plastics are disposed of incorrectly, it could lead to cross-contamination of waste streams and therefore less plastics circularity.
The consultation is open for feedback until 15 March 2022. The Commission services will take feedback into account when preparing the policy framework on biobased, biodegradable and compostable plastics, expected to be adopted in summer 2022.
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