New, Alternative Energy

The European Union has prioritized managing the continent's ongoing energy crisis causing enormous economic problems. Based on the current economic environment of the energy industry, it is vital to find alternative and efficient solutions suitable for energy production in order to reduce the EU's energy dependence on oil and gas. This task requires the implementation of readily available alternative energy production technologies so that the member states reduce their energy dependence as soon as possible.

It is also a European Union objective to increase the recycling of plastic waste. According to the relevant plans and provisions, must be achieved in the recycling of plastics by 2030.

A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy 

Source: EUROPEAN COMMISSION Brussels, 16.1.2018. COM(2018)28 final


Plastic is an important and ubiquitous material in our economy and daily lives. It has multiple functions that help tackle a number of the challenges facing our society. Light and innovative materials in cars or planes save fuel and cut CO2 emissions. High-performance insulation materials help us save on energy bills. In packaging, plastics help ensure food safety and reduce food waste. Combined with 3D printing, bio-compatible plastic materials can save human lives by enabling medical innovation.

However, too often the way plastics are currently produced, used and discarded fails to capture the economic benefits of a more 'circular' approach and harms the environment. There is an urgent need today to tackle the environmental problems that cast a long shadow over the production, use, and consumption of plastics. The million tons of plastic litter that ends up in the oceans every year is one of the most visible and alarming signs of these problems, causing growing public concern.

Rethinking and improving the functioning of such a complex value chain requires effort and greater cooperation by all its key players, from plastics producers to recyclers, retailers and consumers.

It also calls for innovation and a shared vision to drive investment in the right direction. The plastics industry is very important to the European economy and increasing its sustainability can bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation, in line with the objectives pursued by the renewed EU Industrial Policy Strategy.

In December 2015, the Commission adopted an EU Action Plan for a circular economy. There, it identified plastics as a key priority and committed itself to 'prepare a strategy addressing the challenges posed by plastics throughout the value chain and taking into account their entire life-cycle'. In 2017, the Commission confirmed it would focus on plastics production and use and work towards the goal of ensuring that all plastic packaging is recyclable by 2030.

The EU is best placed to lead the transition to the plastics of the future. This strategy lays the foundations to a new plastics economy where the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed and promoted. This will deliver greater added value and prosperity in Europe and boost innovation. It will curb plastic pollution and its adverse impact on our lives and the environment. By pursuing these aims, the strategy will also help achieve the priority set by this Commission for an Energy Union with a modern, low-carbon, resource and energy-efficient economy and will make a tangible contribution to reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

The strategy presents key commitments for action at EU level. Yet the private sector, together with national and regional authorities, cities and citizens will also need to mobilise. Similarly, international engagement will be necessary to drive change outside Europe's borders. With decisive and concerted efforts, Europe can turn challenges into opportunities and set the example for resolute action at a global level.

Over the past 50 years, the role and importance of plastics in our economy have consistently grown. Global production of plastics has increased twentyfold since the 1960s, reaching 322 million tons in 2015. It is expected to double again over the next 20 years.

In the EU, the plastics sector employs 1.5 million people and generated a turnover of EUR 340 billion in 2015. Although plastics production in the EU has been stable in recent years, the EU's share of the global market is falling as production grows in other parts of the world.

In the EU, the potential for recycling plastic waste remains largely unexploited. Reuse and recycling of end-of-life plastics is very low, particularly in comparison with other materials such as paper, glass or metals.

Around 25.8 million tons of plastic waste is generated in Europe every year. Less than 30% of such waste is collected for recycling. Of this amount, a significant share leaves the EU to be treated in developing countries where different environmental standards may apply.

At the same time, landfilling and incineration rates of plastic waste remain high - 31% and 39%, respectively - and while landfill has decreased over the past decade, incineration has grown. According to estimates, 95% of the value of plastic packaging material; i.e., between EUR 70 and 105 billion annually, is lost to the economy after a very short first-use cycle.  

Demand for recycled plastics today accounts for only around 6% of plastics demand in Europe.

In recent years, the EU plastic recycling sector has suffered from low commodity prices and uncertainties about market outlets. Investments in new plastic recycling capacity have been held back by the sector's prospects of low profitability.

It was estimated that plastics production and the incineration of plastic waste give rise globally to approximately 400 million  tons of CO2 a year.

Using more recycled plastics can reduce dependence on the extraction of fossil fuels for plastics production and curb CO2 emissions. According to estimates, the potential annual energy savings that could be achieved from recycling all global plastic waste is equivalent to 3.5 billion barrels of oil per year.

Very large quantities of plastic waste leak into the environment from sources both on land and at sea, generating significant economic and environmental damage. Globally, 5 to 13 million tons of plastics -1.5% to 4% of global plastics production- end up in the oceans every year. It is estimated that plastic accounts for over 80% of marine litter. Plastic debris is then transported by marine currents, sometimes over very long distances. It can be washed up on land, degrade into microplastics or form dense areas of marine litter trapped in ocean gyres. UNEP estimates that damage to marine environments is at least USD 8 billion per year globally. In the EU, 150 000 to 500 000 tons of plastic waste enters the oceans every year. This represents a small proportion of global marine litter. Yet, plastic waste from European sources ends up in particularly vulnerable marine areas, such as the Mediterranean Sea and parts of the Arctic Ocean. 

Moving decisively towards a more prosperous and sustainable plastics economy could deliver considerable benefits. To reap them, Europe needs a strategic vision, setting out what a 'circular' plastics economy could look like in the decades ahead. This vision needs to promote investment in innovative solutions and turn today's challenges into opportunities.

While the EU will propose concrete measures to achieve this vision, making it a reality will require action from all players in the plastic value chain, from plastic producers and designers, through brands and retailers, to recyclers. Similarly, civil society, the scientific community, businesses and local authorities will have a decisive role to play in making a difference, working together with regional and national governments to bring about positive change.

'A vision for Europe's new plastics economy.' A smart, innovative and sustainable plastics industry where design and production fully respect the needs of reuse, repair, and recycling, brings growth and jobs to Europe and helps cut EU's greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on imported fossil fuels.