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February 2004

New European Legislation Increases Plastic Recycling Levels

Houston, TX— In Europe, plastic recycling continues to develop rapidly as new legislation puts new and greater demands on original equipment manufacturers. There are currently over 3,000 plastics recycling companies in Europe constituting an extremely fragmented industry with a series of large global players dominating the market and a significant number of smaller companies competing for the remaining business. In this evolving business, environment plastics recyclers and processors are required to continually review their operational procedures to stay competitive.

Recycling and material and product design to prevent the creation of non-recyclable waste is seen as key element in the virtuous circle of environmental sustainability. Feedback from projects in this sector affects the largest prime producers of plastics and legislators and citizens at local suburb levels. The sector is therefore a natural for political focus and subsequent legislation. Everybody agrees - ‘Not in my backyard.’

In an agreement reached between the EU parliament and the EU Council of Ministers at least 22.5% by weight of plastic packaging and packaging waste will have to be recycled from the end of 2008 in most EU member states. The new requirement compares to 15% at present, a level set by the 1994 Packaging Waste Directive and a target that the EC had previously proposed to leave unchanged.

According to a commission official, the increased recycling level will apply to material that is recycled back into plastics. However other forms of plastic recycling - where plastics are recycled back into other forms of materials - may be counted in the overall recycling target (for all packaging materials) of 55%, Plastics and Rubber Weekly reports.

Consideration of the treatment of compact disc boxes resulted in drawn out discussion that concluded with the decision that film wrapping around CD boxes will be counted as packaging, but not necessarily the boxes themselves. This meant that in practice most member states would not consider CD cases to be packaging, though this matter would be reviewed by a committee of experts from national governments. A similar review will consider whether incinerated materials may be allowed to count against the targets, which is being allowed for the time being. Ireland, Portugal and Greece have until 2011 to meet the new targets.

In mid February 2004, leaders in the field of plastics recycling, processing, materials, legislation and end-use will come together at a conference in Brussels to provide an over view of the market and address key issues including the evaluation of various new directives and pieces of legislation, designing for the environment, identification, sorting and separation of plastics waste, innovative technologies and the recycling of PVC pipes and other construction materials.

With environmental auditing and product green-tagging advancing the recycling status of materials and products is vital.

In South Africa, the supermarkets had been freely giving out millions, if not billions, of plastic bags at their checkouts for many years. The plastic bag became known as ‘the national flower’ as it was discarded and seen everywhere, blown up against fences, polluting rivers and beaches and drifting through suburban streets.

The South Africa minister of marine affairs, forests and environment, Valli Moosa, fought legislation which banned fine gauge plastic bags featuring the maximum store logo content (which are unrecyclable). The proposal set a new, thicker gauge requirement for the bag industry and implemented a fee for the bags to subsidize bag recycling. Numbers of bags dispensed fell sensationally and plastic bag workers were idled but the public generally responded by re-using the thicker gauge bags and re-introducing the good old family shopping bag.

The industry workers with problems have been offered alternatives and support and the public is generally feel-good about the whole operation. The ‘national flower’ has quickly become an eradicated and alien species...and a lot of ordinary shoppers know something more about the molecular structure of various plastics than they did a year ago.

—Researched by Industrialinfo.com

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