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Chemical and plastics industry support UN plastics agreement

The member states of the United Nations want to put an end to environmental pollution through plastic litter by 2040. Plastics Europe Deutschland (PED) and the Chemical Industry Association (VCI) support the overriding aim to strengthen the circular economy.

With a large majority, the international community of the UN agreed at the beginning of June in Paris on a mandate for drawing up an initial draft for a global plastics agreement. The aim is, by the time the next conference takes place in Kenya at the end of 2023, to compile a "Draft Zero", which takes into account the various positions of the countries involved and provides the basis for further discussions and negotiations. A "High Ambition Coalition" of around 50 nations, including Germany and the European Union, is calling for a reduction in plastics consumption and plastics production. Other countries and the plastics industry see the solution more in improved waste product documentation with subsequent recycling. The aim is, by 2024, to have evolved a convention that lays down binding rules and measures for the entire plastics lifecycle, starting with the raw material, through product design, to the recycling.
Plastics Europe Deutschland (PED) and the Chemical Industry Association (VCI) welcome the continuation of the negotiations to achieve a global agreement as a basis for improving waste management, and also support the efforts by the Committee to transform the plastics industry into a circular economy in which all plastic waste is collected, reused and recycled. At the same time, both associations support measures that help the plastics industry to reduce its output of greenhouse gases. Even ahead of the negotiations in Paris, VCI and PED had emphasised the necessity to get away from using fossil raw materials in production, and, through the promotion of corresponding recycling and circular technologies, to drive greenhouse gas neutrality forward.
To meet the agreement’s target to curb environmental pollution caused by improperly disposed-of plastic waste by 2040, VCI and PED are proposing – as stated in a press release – to introduce measures that help to improve the collection, sorting and recycling of plastics, that increase the demand for reusable plastics and also avoid unnecessary plastic applications. In this way, for example, "short-lived products or single-use products could be replaced by longer-life and more environmentally friendly alternatives, as long as they are proven to have a smaller ecological footprint." Nevertheless, globally harmonised criteria should be developed for this, which serve as a basis for evaluating various plastics applications, say the associations. It is also necessary, from their point of view, to develop a holistic approach, which encourages both sustainable production and a closed plastics cycle. For this reason, VCI and PED propose the development of product design principles that take into account the whole lifecycle and introduce binding recycling quotas for plastics. Also, in the opinion of the two associations, all potential recycling technologies should be considered for setting up a circular plastics economy, and their further development should be supported. Apart from the mechanical recycling processes, this also includes chemical recycling processes (e.g. pyrolysis) and Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) processes, in which carbon is recovered from plastic waste and introduced into a further utilisation cycle. Chemical recycling enables, for example, the recovery and recycling of carbon from mixed plastic flows that are difficult to separate and sort, and which are unsuitable or too difficult for mechanical recycling. In addition to this, financing systems should be introduced which permit extensive investment and are needed to bring about the desired turnaround in the industry, say the two associations.
Further information: to the press release from VCI and PED (in German) and position paper of Plastics Europe on global plastics agreement

  • press release VCI and PED (25.5.2023)
  • (30.5.2023)
  • (4.6.2023)
  • Photo: © BKV, Baretto

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