Speech: The future of plastics under the European Green Deal
Helmut Maurer, principal administrator and Senior Expert at the European Commission’s DG Environment, since 2016 in charge of chemicals and circular economy, was the third speaker to present at the Greiner Packaging Innovation Day 2022.
He talked about the future of plastics under the European Green Deal in which the European Commission has sketched out its ambitions towards climate neutrality as well as how to achieve sustainable growth while respecting planetary boundaries.
Helmut Maurer discussed how the European Commission is currently working out numerous legislative proposals to make the Green Deal operational. Plastics will be affected by a number of these proposals, posing new challenges for which industry is bound to find innovative answers.
Helmut Maurer talked about the real issues from overproduction to definitions for recycling and the actual rates being achieved. He then discussed the introduction of the Eco-design regulation for sustainable products, which includes the development of a Product Passport – which includes packaging – and which will create better transparency.
We are counting too much on recycling, and the Green Deal is not giving sufficient guidance. Plastic cannot be used for the short term and then discarded, and perhaps we have to introduce a new model, which is to use packaging only where it is really essential.
“We have to find a way to reduce overall production, but the word ‘reduce’ doesn't exist in terms of policymaking. At some stage, we have to have a new product policy approach that we haven't been brave enough to have so far, and we need to install a product targeting system which we don't have today. We should have a system in place that obliges anyone who wants to put something on the market to give it to an authority that assesses the sustainability of the product.
“We will see the Green Deal executed in one or two years, and in five years evaluations will find that we have not achieved anything tangible, and we have to do with something new.
“We have to go for a product policy which is radical, which allows us to radically reduce production and CO2 emissions and develop new business models, such as: ‘everything has a use’; or ‘don’t sell stuff, give your stuff away for optimal use and make sure that you get it back’.
“Plastic as a material has a short past and will have a very long future, provided we fully exploit all potential the material can have if we use it more wisely. And if we are ready to accept disruptive business models that lead us towards a future in which we consume less, but make much better use of the material we create,” Helmut Maurer concluded.